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.