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Research brief: Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions on homicide and property crime

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Introduction

Over the course of just a few weeks during the first few months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the nature of social interaction and economic activity in all regions across the world. By the first week of April 2020, 3.9 billion people – more than half the global population – were under some form of lockdown. 1 In the months that followed, countries enforced a broad spectrum of restrictions, 2 adjusting and readjusting their response in accordance with the course of the pandemic.

These ongoing changes are affecting all aspects of life, with crime being no exception. This research brief is aimed at providing initial observations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on four types of crime: homicide, robbery, theft and burglary. Based on ongoing data collection launched by UNODC in March 2020, trends before and after lockdown measures were introduced are 1 Euronews, “Coronavirus: Half of humanity now on lockdown as 90 countries call for confinement”, April 2020. Available at www.euronews.com/2020/04/02/coronavirus-in-europe-spain-sdeath-toll-hits.... The term lockdown can refer to anything from stay-at-home orders to compared in order to assess whether the measures have had a significant impact on those crimes. The possible longer-term impact of the emerging global economic crisis on the same forms of crime is also discussed.

The insight provided by the national and regional data analysed in this research brief shows that the unprecedented changes related to the pandemic differ by type of crime, by country or region and over time. Given the paucity of the data and the heterogeneity of the emerging dynamics, this brief is focused on illustrative country and regional examples without drawing conclusions on the global impact of COVID-19 measures on the crimes in question. The resulting observations can serve as a starting point for further data analyses and for informing programme delivery in the field of crime prevention.