Property crime and the pandemic

Perhaps it’s no surprise that property crimes dipped significantly during the first year of the pandemic amid curfews and lockdown orders. In fact, 2020 was a historically low year for property crime, according to statistics reported by police departments and sheriff’s offices to the California Department of Justice.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that property crime returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 as restrictions eased. 

According to a separate analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California that tabulated four major cities’ preliminary crime data, property crime in 2021 was up in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 31, 2021.

That followed a dip in which property crime in 2020 reached a six-decade low.

“While the specific factors driving fluctuations in crime numbers in the wake of the COVID health crisis are very difficult to determine, the data suggest that overall both violent and property crime are back to pre-pandemic levels,” the institute’s authors wrote.

Among California’s five largest counties – Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino   — property crime fell slightly from 2015 to 2019, with a pandemic dip beginning in March 2020.  The same trend held true for Alameda and Sacramento counties in Northern California.

A spate of smash-and-grab retail thefts in the Bay Area and Los Angeles in November and the burglarizing of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s own wine shop in San Francisco drew headlines. Newsom’s 2022 budget proposal included $300 million over three years to combat retail theft, most of it through grants to local law enforcement.