Richmond Assault Stats Up — Cabin Fever or Random Variation?

Some people of my acquaintance have wondered what the COVID-19 epidemic might do to the thin veneer of civilization that we Americans take so for granted. When people are living cooped up for weeks on end — with the prospect of social distancing extending for several months more — how will they behave? Will we see more domestic violence? Will people begin looting?

We’re only a month or so into intense lock-down, but so far the limited evidence is encouraging. We’re not seeing a crime wave.

On the grounds that the City of Richmond is one of the state’s most crime-prone jurisdictions, I took police department data for the period Feb.15 through March 15 and March 16 through April 16 to compare the number of crimes reported. For many categories — homicides, robberies, burglaries, thefts, and vehicle thefts — crimes declined. Perhaps the bad guys are staying inside their houses and not roaming the streets.

On the other hand, there was a 13.2% surge in the number of assaults. Does that constitute evidence of an increased incidence of cabin fever? I am not schooled enough in the statistics of crime to know if that increase is significant or falls within the normal range of monthly variation. Perhaps readers can weigh in.

— JAB

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5 responses to “Richmond Assault Stats Up — Cabin Fever or Random Variation?

  1. I can understand this… Just try to buy a can of Spam.

  2. johnrandolphofroanoke

    Will warmer weather impact the crime data? I can’t imagine everyone staying inside until Memorial Day and behaving.

    • Crime rates do tend to increase with warmer weather. It would probably be better to compare that data with data from comparable periods from previous years. It would also be helpful to know if those were domestic assaults or other types of assaults.

  3. Serving on board of large service/shelter provider for victims of domestic violence & human trafficking victims, I’ve owned that periods of increased togetherness (year-end holidays, school breaks, weather disasters) produce higher rates of DV, but the reports will lag when victims cannot get space to make a call outside the range of abuser. So homicides will likely get reported but assaults will o underreported for some interval. On the good news side, shut down is horrible for sex traffickers (probably no impact of labor traffickers). With large sporting events, and conventions out, the market went to near zero.

  4. Thank you for the work you do. I suspect what you deal with is the largest health crisis ongoing in America today by far.

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