A UCLA-led research team announced Wednesday they have found an increase in the incidents of domestic violence being reported in Los Angeles and Indianapolis since safer-at-home policies were implemented in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Shelter-in-place rules, by mandating more time at home, are very likely to increase the volume of domestic or intimate partner violence, which thrives behind closed doors,” said the study’s senior author, UCLA anthropology professor Jeffrey Brantingham. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, both Los Angeles and Indianapolis already have seen significant increases in domestic violence calls to the police, and we know domestic violence is one of the crimes least reported to the police.”
Researchers analyzed police calls for service before and during the coronavirus pandemic, along with crime statistics for both cities.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Criminal Justice, found that Los Angeles — which implemented a ”Safer at Home” order March 20 — and Indianapolis — which enacted similar orders March 24 — saw a statistically significant increase in domestic violence calls for service after the stay-at-home policies were implemented.
The researchers predict that the incidents of domestic violence should gradually decrease as people return to their normal routines, but would likely increase again if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections that result in new stay-at-home orders.
The number of reported robberies decreased significantly in Los Angeles and stayed relatively consistent in Indianapolis, with burglaries decreasing significantly in Los Angeles and slightly in Indianapolis and vehicle thefts moderately higher in Los Angeles but unchanged in Indianapolis, according to researchers, who found that traffic stops were down in both cities.
“Overall, these shifts are perhaps less substantial than might be expected given the scale of the disruption of social and economic life brought on by COVID-19,” Brantingham said. “Overall, people were still finding opportunities to commit crimes at approximately the same level as before the crisis.”
The researchers, who apply mathematics to interpret and make sense of police crime data, noted that physical-distancing measures are likely to significantly alter and disrupt the conditions in which crime typically occurs.
The study’s co-authors include Andrea Bertozzi, UCLA professor of mathematics and director of Applied Mathematics; George Mohler, associate professor of Computer and Information Science at Purdue University; Martin B. Short, associate professor of Mathematics at Georgia Tech; and George Tita, professor of Criminology, Law and Society, and Urban Planning and Public Policy at UC Irvine.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation.
In April, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced a program called Behind Closed Doors aimed at providing resources to victims of domestic abuse.
Feuer said then that he was “very alarmed” at the decline in reports of domestic and other forms of abuse during the pandemic because people may continue to be abused but not come forward due to the Safer-at-Home orders.
The initiative is a partnership with grocery stores, Los Angeles Unified School District and other organizations to post fliers at their locations with contact information for assistance that abuse victims can use. It also calls on workers of essential services to be aware of signs of abusive relationships and circumstances and to contact authorities if they suspect someone is in danger.
Lacey also joined district attorneys from four other California counties in releasing a two-part Zoom podcast last month to provide resources to victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault during the coronavirus pandemic.
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