Thefts and break-ins plunge during pandemic, says RNC
Property crimes declined sharply during the lockdown, while crimes against people dipped slightly
While people spent the spring largely sheltering at home, crime plummeted in areas policed by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Burglaries, car thefts and other crimes against property were way down, assaults and other crimes against people declined far less.
Statistics shared with CBC suggest crimes against property fell by a third during April and May over the same months last year, while there were tight restrictions in place on public life. Other Criminal Code violations were cut nearly in half during the same period, according to the RNC.
Const. James Cadigan described the drop in crime rates as "unprecedented."
"The community responded to the regulations put in place. We were met with overwhelming compliance and co-operation," he said.
Big drop in some crimes, less in others
Crimes against property include breaking and entering, theft and destruction of property, including vandalism. Cadigan attributes the decline to the fact people simply weren't out and about as much as they would otherwise have been.
"You're talking about crimes of opportunity," he said. "We speak a lot about reporting of suspicious persons, and certainly crimes of opportunity are much less likely if persons are going to be home in their residence, and willing to report any suspicious activity."
What the RNC calls "other crimes" can refer to things like breaching court orders.
But "crimes against persons," including assault or harassment, were much less affected by the lockdown. Those crimes declined only 11 and 12 percent during April and May, respectively.
"These are the types of crimes that often involve people known to one another," Cadigan said. "In these situations, those persons would have contact information, they would have access, or often live in the same home. That's why you would see that trend not shift too far from the norm."
Violence Prevention Avalon East reported a surge in calls during the lockdown period. Cadigan acknowledged the lockdown created difficult conditions for anyone sheltering with a potential abuser. He said it's an issue the RNC saw coming, and that the force's intimate-partner violence unit beefed up its communication during the lockdown to make sure potential victims knew who to call.
While many reported crimes were way down, calls for service to the RNC remained relatively unchanged this spring compared with the same time last year. While police had fewer crimes to respond to, Cadigan said, they were kept busy dealing with matters arising from the public health restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our officers were still responding to calls for service, and some of those calls for service were a shift into the public health sphere, and providing assistance and communication on that front."