We collect data from over 25 large cities in the U.S. and document the short-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on crime. There is a widespread immediate drop in both criminal incidents and arrests most heavily pronounced among drug crimes, theft, residential burglaries, and most violent crimes. The decline appears to precede most stay-at-home orders, and arrests follow a similar pattern as reports. We find no decline in homicides and shootings, and an increase in non-residential burglary and car theft in most cities, suggesting that criminal activity was displaced to locations with fewer people. Pittsburgh, New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Chicago each saw overall crime drops of over 35%. There was also a drop in police stops and a rise in Black detainee share in Philadelphia, which may reflect the racial composition of essential workers. Evidence on police-initiated reports and geographic variation in crime change suggests that most of the observed changes are not due to reporting changes.
Abrams, David S., "COVID and Crime: An Early Empirical Look" (2020). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. 2204.