COVID and crime: is there a correlation?

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RBC I Like most residents of planet Earth, you’ve probably been feeling a bit off-kilter lately.
In the six weeks since COVID-19 locked down the nation, the HT wondered if the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic was translating into actual crimes being committed.
To find out if that crazy COVID feeling resulted in documented misbehavior, the HT reviewed call data provided by Mike Cook, RBC Communications Manager.
For reference, Rio Blanco County already boasts an incredibly low crime rate, with less than one violent crime per 1,000 residents (the national average is 3.87 per 1,000) and only 8.76 property crimes per 1,000 residents (nationally, the rate is 22.98 per 1,000).
We discovered the lockdown has actually decreased the number of incidents reported. Total incidents have decreased month-over-month in 2020, with 772 in January, 633 in February, and only 597 in March. The 2019 monthly average was about 792 incidents. So far, 2020 is tracking at 100 less per month, around 667.
That said, Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue has seen a bump in calls as the weather warms and residents try, and fail, to control ditch burns. Meeker Police Department’s numbers don’t seem to have a correlation to the shutdown at all. MPD took 246, 196 and 233 calls during the first three months of 2020.
Rangely Police Chief TiRynn Hamblin, however, said their calls have dropped. “Our workload has decreased. With less people in town for business or passing through we have had less calls for service.”
Hamblin also mentioned that a more relaxed policing stance has led to numbers being lower than usual.
“Due to COVID-19, we have changed our policing stance (temporarily) by not being as proactive. We anticipate this changing when things go back to ‘normal’,” Hamblin stated via email.
Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office echoed a similar sentiment a few weeks into the pandemic response, at least with regard to “enforcing” public health orders.
“The order from Governor Polis to ‘stay at home’ will not change the way Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office conducts business,” reads part of a pinned post on the SO’s Facebook page.
The apparent lack of misbehavior matches trends both in the area and on a larger scale. The Craig Press reported April 17 that crime reports were down across the board in Craig and Moffat County, and Time magazine reported double-digit drops in crime in places like Chicago, Peru and El Salvador in mid-April, as well.
Colorado State Patrol also chose to cut back on issuing citations for minor traffic violations, and from March 25 to April 27 encouraged residents to self-report accidents not involving injuries, drugs or alcohol. That has since been rescinded, so be sure to report all crashes to law enforcement like you normally would moving forward.
Conversely, CPS has seen more bad behavior behind the wheel. “The State Patrol has seen an increase in speed, as well as cars going through stop signs without stopping,” according to a Trooper Tips article by Master Trooper Gary Cutler, who then reiterated the importance of safe driving.
With most people staying home, however, it seems the most trouble you’re apt to get into right now is a heated game of Monopoly.

By CAITLIN WALKER | caitlin@ht1885.com

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