Fewer people out means fewer opportunities for crime, according to the New Haven Police Department. Data shows crime is down 15 percent from this time last year, and violent crime is down nearly 28 percent.
Chief Otoniel Reyes said both the pandemic and police efforts together are making a difference.
“I think there’s a lot of work we’re doing behind the scenes and even some stuff that’s not traditional police work that’s helped those numbers come down,” said Reyes.
The data shows that between the month before COVID-19 to the month after, crime dropped in all New Haven neighborhoods except Dixwell.
The greatest was in the downtown area, where reported crimes dropped 62 percent. Reyes said fewer people going to work and going out at night contributed to those numbers.
While violent crimes are down 28 percent so far this year, there was a spike the first two weeks of the pandemic in aggravated assaults and robberies. Both quickly dropped off.
“(Crime was) attributed largely that second week to a youth group that was going around stealing cars and doing robberies,” said Reyes. “We identified them, we worked with some partners, we did some unconventional behind the scenes work and really got ahold of that.”
All calls for service and arrests are down as well, including those involving domestic calls. Changes to department and criminal justice policies under COVID-19 mean fewer domestic violence arrests so far.
“We were many times issuing misdemeanors, many times taking alternative actions other than arrests for these calls so they were resulting in less custodial arrests,” said Reyes.
Specific crime rates vary across the city's 10 districts. Motor vehicle thefts are down 14 percent in Fair Haven compared to last year, while they're up 83 in Newhallville.
Vehicle stops were down dramatically last month. New Haven police said they’ve cut back due to COVID-19. Police made 1,700 stops the month before the pandemic, and 156 the month following. Reyes said it was a policy change to limit possible exposure to the virus
“We’re still doing enforcement on people engaging in reckless motor vehicle operation, but the lower level crimes obviously are not getting the same attention as they used to pre COVID.
Fewer people are on the streets now, but the city is concerned about a possible crime spike this summer, with COVID-19 making fewer activities available for young people.
“This is something we’re going to keep our eye on to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the likelihood of people getting into trouble,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
Reyes said they’re learning from this pandemic and using it to plan for the future.
“We’re always preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. We’re looking at what’s been trending during these last couple of months with COVID and letting that inform us in terms of what’s next for the summer,” said Reyes. “But right now we’re taking it week by week day by day, but planning month by month so that we’re ready for whatever comes.”