UNODC Research Reveals Drop in Reported Property Crime and Homicide During COVID-19 Lockdown Is Only Short-Lived

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Vienna (Austria), 11 December 2020 — The latest research brief from UNODC shows that –while property crime during the first COVID-19 lockdown period has decreased around the world, and homicide rates have decreased in some countries– changes were only short-lived and numbers have quickly reached pre-pandemic levels.

Based on data from 30 countries, UNODC Research found that homicide rates have undergone a short-term decline of 25% or more in some countries; while in others, there was no visible change or the variability remained within its pre-pandemic range. Homogeneous changes were more visible in Europe and other regions, while trends were quite heterogeneous across Latin America.

This can be explained by differences in the strictness of the restrictive measures imposed during lockdowns.

However, socioeconomic factors also play a role. One salient element is the typology of reported homicide rates during this period. While in Latin America killings are often related to organized crime and gangs, in Europe they are increasingly linked to interpersonal violence.

Reports of robbery, theft and burglary have declined significantly, falling by more than 50% in most countries, with larger decreases where lockdown measures were stricter. Partial evidence suggests that this trend reflects a decrease in the number of crimes committed, although victims may have also reduced their reporting.

Property crime rates have quickly returned to pre-pandemic levels after the initial months of lockdown; and it could further increase in the medium to long-term, as a consequence of the economic downturn, following a similar trend observed during other major economic crises.

The current research brief is based on the limited data currently available on homicide and property crime during the COVID-19 lockdown. It aims to improve the understanding of the diverse effects of the pandemic on various types of crime around the globe.

It also acknowledges that a comprehensive understanding of the full impact of the pandemic on these crimes will only be possible when more administrative and population survey data become available.

Jointly with the research brief, a new set of monthly data collected by UNODC is being made available today. The statistical data –provided by national stakeholders on selected crime indicators– will enable further analysis on the impact of COVID-19 across the world and become the foundation for evidence-based policies at national and international level. This data collection will be regularly updated by UNODC.