As more people stay home to avoid spreading or catching the coronavirus, police say they expect to see changes to crime rates. However, with less than a month of data to analyze since governments began to urge people to stay home, police say it's still too soon to tell what kind of trends may emerge.
Even so, a comparison of crime reports from last month and March 2019 show some clear differences.
Domestic violence, for example, has seen about a 22% increase, although reports of child abuse have dropped by about 25%.
Auto crimes — thefts of cars and of items from cars — have seen a 29% increase. And robbery has seen a 45% increase.
Meanwhile, shots fired calls have gone up by about 52%.
"It would be remiss of the Chattanooga Police Department to not anticipate a change in crime reporting during a pandemic as compared to the same time the previous year," Chattanooga police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said in an email. "However, comparing a short-term average is not an appropriate measure of trend. Comparing numbers in the short-term fails to capture nuances, things like weather, day of the week, events happening (not happening) in the city, even major televised sporting events all affect crime and the opportunity to commit criminal acts."
For example, the shots fired reports include all calls — even the ones that couldn't be confirmed, meaning no evidence of gunfire was located. That could be because police simply couldn't find any shell casings or because callers mistook a vehicle backfiring, fireworks, nail gun, or even a vehicle door slamming as gunfire.
While it's only speculative at this point, police said it's likely that the increase in shots fired calls are because more people are spending time at home and are hearing things they wouldn't normally hear.
"Many aren't leaving to go to the store as often, going to work, gym, out to dinner, traveling out of town," Myzal said. "CPD encourages community members to call when they hear what they believe are or might be gunshots. Officers continue to check the areas where the calls come in from."
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