COVID-19 shelter-in-place order causes change in crimes

Elianna Lev
·4 min read
Mounted police officers ride down University Ave. through hospital row as Toronto first responders parade in front of the hospitals in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in a salute to healthcare workers on April 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. - The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 164,016 on April 19, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT. (Photo by Cole BURSTON / AFP) (Photo by COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
Mounted police officers ride down University Ave. through hospital row as Toronto first responders parade in front of the hospitals in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in a salute to healthcare workers on April 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders have changed the way many of us live, as well as the communities we live in. For some communities, this includes crime rates. Across the country, police departments are seeing shifts in statistics when it comes to different offences. Yahoo Canada reached out to several police forces across the country to find out whether there are crime trends that can be connected to lockdown orders.


Sgt. Aaron Roed with Vancouver Police Department says that while calls have been down, they are seeing a few small spikes in certain areas around the city. Although property crime has gone down, commercial break and enters have gone up, almost 100 per cent.

“Initially we saw, with commercial break and enters, people breaking in in the evenings,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “We’re promoting that people board up stores, remove property from windows and if they can increase the locks on doors.”

He also recommends that store owners routinely check their empty businesses and if there are signs of forced entry, contact police immediately.

“We’ve reallocated our resources to target these criminals even before they get into these stores,” he says.

Traffic police are still issuing tickets for speeding and dangerous driving, but they haven’t noticed a spike in racing or stunt driving.


At a news conference this week, Superintendent Steve Barlow with Calgary Police says they’ve seen a 15 per cent decrease in calls for service. Every day, the department receives about 30 COVID-19-related calls for service. Meanwhile, online reporting of crime has gone from 190 reports a week to almost 400.

Domestic conflict calls, which encompasses intimate partners and other family members, have increased, but domestic violence has decreased week after week.

“Overall violence has decreased by about 30 per cent, we believe in part due to the closure of bars and nighttime venues,” said Barlow.

When it comes to break ins, home break and enters are down approximately 45 per cent. Barlow urges residents to keep in the habit of locking doors and closing windows as the temperature goes up.


Scott Pattison, communication advisor with Edmonton police wrote in an email that the city hasn’t seen any huge change in patterns. While commercial robberies were down for the week, they were higher overall from 2019 and compared to the three-year average. Domestic violence was down for the week but also up slightly from the three-year average.

The force has seen a spike in mental health calls, but continues to see a drop in violent occurrences. There’s been increases in property crime occurrences, driven mainly by weekly increases in theft of and from automobiles.


In an email, Meaghan Gray with Toronto Police Service says that since social distancing and self-isolation have been imposed, the force has noticed a decrease in the total number of calls to the non-emergency line. She says there could be several reasons for this decline, including fewer people in a single place calling about one incident and a decrease in parking complaints.

“However, even with the decrease in call volume, there has been no significant change to our calls for service,” she says. “This means police officers are responding to about the same amount of calls as they were during this time last year.”

Gray stresses that it’s while it is far too early to make any conclusions on possible crime trends during this time, weekly statistics from March 16, 2020, have shown the following:

  • A decline in overall robberies but, when broken down, an increase in hold-ups and retail robberies combined with a decrease in street robberies

  • Break-and-enters fluctuating, which appears to be due to a decrease in residential break-and-enters and an increase in commercial break-and-enters

  • Auto thefts, assaults and sexual assaults are declining

  • Shootings have increased

They’ve also seen a small decrease in intimate partner violence reports.


Montreal’s police department will release crime statistics at the end of the month, in order to compare to last year’s numbers.

However, Insp. André Durocher says that without any statistics, he’d say break and enters are down as a result of most people quarantining at home. He also suspects that there’s been a dip in collisions, since less cars are on the roads.

“We’ve been busy but not for the same reasons,” he tells Yahoo Canada. “A lot of our resources have been used for social distancing, patrolling parks, that kind of stuff.”

He urges businesses that are currently closed to make sure there’s an alarm system in place along with an effective lock system.

“If you’re an owner of a restaurant, leave the lights on so people can see inside when they’re passing on the street,” he says.