As residents stay home, residential burglary is down—but auto burglary is up

As coronavirus forces people to stay inside, it appears to have curbed some crimes, but has also pushed others up.

The Long Beach Police Department this week released its monthly crime statistics report for the month of March. The report showed that citywide, total crime in March is only down by 1%, with violent crime down by 3.5% and property crime down by 0.5% when compared to March 2019.

But broken down further, the differences are huge: In March 2019, there were 108 reports of residential burglaries, but this year there were 65, which is about a 40% difference.

This follows what’s been happening in other major cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where crime dropped when stay-at-home orders were put in place.

Other forms of burglaries are up citywide, however. There were 55 more reports of auto burglaries in March this year compared to last. Garage burglaries were up by 17 reports— a 71% difference— and commercial burglaries were up by 22 cases, or 54%.

According to the Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, the rise may be due to recent efforts to reduce jail populations to curb the spread of coronavirus. In mid-March, county officials reduced bail for non-violent crimes to one cent. These crimes include commercial burglary, auto theft and auto burglary.

“Guess what’s going up? Commercial burglary, auto theft and auto burglary,” Luna said in a live chat with the Post. “And we’re finding that a lot of these suspects who are arrested for these crimes are just being released and they’re going back out and recommitting these offenses and that’s not good for any of us.”

The department is working to combat this by trying to track the re-offenders and talking with business owners about preventative measures, he said.

In the South Division, which is primarily the Downtown area, the difference is stark: Overall crime is down by 28%. There were 17 fewer reports of violent crime in March compared to last year, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. For property crime in the area, residential, commercial and auto burglaries all saw large drops, although garage burglaries tripled from two cases in March 2019 to six this year.

West Long Beach saw the largest jump in crime, with total crime up by 21% overall. Violent crime rose by 13%, or eight additional incidents.

Auto burglaries nearly tripled in the Westside, jumping from 16 incidents to 45 in March 2020. Commercial burglaries followed suit with a 133% rise from six to 14 cases and garage burglaries tripled from three to nine cases. Even residential burglaries saw a small increase of one case; the trend in every other division was downward.

North Long Beach also saw an increase in crime of 9% overall. Violent crime had an increase of 7% and property crime had an increase of 9%. There were six fewer reports of residential burglaries, but seven more garage burglary cases in March. Commercial and auto burglaries also rose by 67% and 38%, respectively.

In the East Division, overall crime rose by 1.1%, but auto burglaries and petty theft of under $50 both doubled and commercial burglary rose by 10 cases, or 71%.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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