Crime in the Era of COVID-19: Evidence from England

Research output: Working paper

Abstract

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the prescribed countermeasures of restrictions to mobility and social distancing are disrupting economic activity around the world. This applies to legal economic activity but also to criminal behavior and illegal activity. In this study, we investigate the effects of COVID-19-induced lockdowns on recorded crime in England. The enforcement of lockdowns in the country at both the national and local levels, temporally and spatially, allows unveiling the impact on criminal activities by type of shutdown policy. We use official crime data across the universe of local authorities dating back to May 2013 for all recorded crime categories. We find that (1) National lockdowns decrease all types of criminal behavior, except for anti-social behavior, drug offences and crimes against public order which are recording increases. (2) Relaxing national lockdown restrictions attenuates the initial crime effects of strict lockdowns across all crimes. (3) Local lockdowns affect fewer crime categories, limited to increasing anti-social behavior and weapons possession offences and decreasing bicycle theft and other theft violations, with findings being driven by late-entry areas of such policies. (4) A change in the local lockdown scheme implemented by the government in October 2020 does not have a markedly dissimilar effect on criminal activity compared to the earlier scheme. (5) Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that government-mandated lockdowns reduced the economic costs of crime by approximately £4.3 billion for the country as a whole (in 2020 British pounds).

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
PublisherSocial Science Research Network
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021