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Governments around the world restricted movement of people, using social distancing and lockdowns, to help stem the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We examine crime effects for one UK police force area in comparison to 5-year averages. There is variation in the onset of change by crime type, some declining from the WHO 'global pandemic' announcement of 11 March, others later. By 1 week after the 23 March lockdown, all recorded crime had declined 41%, with variation: shoplifting (- 62%), theft (- 52%), domestic abuse (- 45%), theft from vehicle (- 43%), assault (- 36%), burglary dwelling (- 25%) and burglary non-dwelling (- 25%). We use Google Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports to calculate the mobility elasticity of crime for four crime types, finding shoplifting and other theft inelastic but responsive to reduced retail sector mobility (MEC = 0.84, 0.71 respectively), burglary dwelling elastic to increases in residential area mobility (- 1), with assault inelastic but responsive to reduced workplace mobility (0.56). We theorise that crime rate changes were primarily caused by those in mobility, suggesting a mobility theory of crime change in the pandemic. We identify implications for crime theory, policy and future research.
Halford, E., Dixon, A., Farrell, G., Malleson, N., & Tilley, N. (2020). Crime and coronavirus: Social distancing, lockdown, and the mobility elasticity of crime. Crime Science, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40163-020-00121-w