Murders an ‘exception’ as city crime drops by a third during lockdowns – dpa international

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Pandemic restrictions have left city landmarks, such as this mall in Kuala Lumpur seen during Malaysia's first lockdown last year, mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

Pandemic restrictions have left city landmarks, such as this mall in Kuala Lumpur seen during Malaysia’s first lockdown last year, mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pandemic lockdowns coincided with “significant” falls in crime rates in 27 cities across 23 countries, according to academics from the University of Cambridge and the University of Utrecht.

The research, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, suggested that rates of “most types of crime” dropped “significantly” in the wake of an “unparalleled sudden change in daily life.”

However, homicides fell by a relatively low 14 per cent overall in what the team said was “a key exception” to their findings.

With people in many cities forced to mostly stay at home by pandemic-related curbs, Amy Nivette of the University of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, said “restrictions on urban mobility may have little effect on domestic murders.”

But in cities where gangs have been a powerful presence and where previous murder rates were relatively high, such as Cali, Lima and Rio de Janeiro, homicide numbers fell.

Overall, offences such as mugging, robbery and theft were down by almost half, the team found, along with a 35-per-cent fall in assaults.

“City living has been dramatically curtailed by Covid-19, and crime is a big part of city life,” said Manuel Eisner of the University of Cambridge.

Burglaries dropped by an average of 28 per cent, possibly due to “most people stay[ing] at home throughout the day,” making it “more difficult” to break into houses.

The reductions “varied considerably from city to city,” the researchers said, noting that “a change in opportunities for theft may not correlate with a change in opportunities for assault.”

Police and officials in many countries have reported rises in domestic violence over the past year, during periods of restrictions when people were forced to largely remain indoors.

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