In a time where good news has been in short supply, there’s some great news coming out of Los Angeles this week. As with most large cities, L.A. has struggled to keep its gang violence and violent crime problems under control in recent years. Rapidly growing homeless encampments have only exacerbated the problem. But now, the city’s Police Chief is letting everyone know that crime in the City of Angels is down. And I mean way down. Almost all categories of crime are down by nearly 25% across the board. Who knew all you needed was a massive pandemic forcing everyone to stay in their houses to accomplish it? (CBS Los Angeles)

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Monday that crime in the city had decreased by 23 percent this March compared to last year as Angelenos followed the mayor’s Safer at Home order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Moore said the city saw reductions in crime in nearly every category except auto theft, which saw a slight increase.

“People staying at home in their neighborhoods, watching out for each other and exercising social distancing is allowing us to have a safer city,” Moore said.

Even reported family violence, which many worried might increase as families spent more time in close quarters, decreased by 11 percent, Moore said.

You take your victories where you find them, I suppose. Slashing crime by that much in a matter of weeks is good news no matter how you dice it. Of course, this clearly isn’t the result of some new, successful law enforcement program or a sudden wave of morality washing over the Crips and the Bloods. There just aren’t as many people out on the streets to rob or attack and there are far fewer empty houses to rob during the day. When the pandemic is over, I’m guessing the criminals will be going back to work as soon as the rest of us do.

The one curious figure in the Chief’s report is the single category of crime that actually went up. That was car thefts, though the number didn’t rise significantly. This seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? There are generally two ways to pull off stealing a car. One is to carjack someone when they’re stopped on the street and the other is to break into and drive away a parked car.

With so many people on lockdown and so many businesses closed, there are fewer people driving, so you’d probably assume that there are fewer available carjacking targets. Similarly, there should be fewer cars parked at businesses because of fewer (or zero) employees and customers arriving there. Most of the cars should be parked at people’s homes, right? And you’d think they would be harder to steal there. This is something of a mystery.

The other piece of good news in the report is that domestic violence is also down. The Chief sounded rather surprised about that one because it was assumed that people cooped up in their homes together for long periods of time might experience higher levels of stress and anxiety, potentially leading them to turn on each other. But it seems that families are pulling together during the hard times more than they are tearing apart.

Or at least that’s what I’ll choose to believe. One of the most difficult things about analyzing crime statistics is trying to see inside the minds of the perpetrators. If we knew more about the psychology of crime, we might do a better job of preventing it.