Police stats: Violent crime dropped under stay-at-home orders, but property crime jumped

Violent crime dropped during the months when more businesses were closed and residents mostly stayed home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but property crime rose steadily, with garage burglaries jumping a whopping 170% in May, Long Beach Police Department statistics show.

The department’s newly-released crime statistics for the months of May and April give a snapshot of how crime rates changed as the state shuttered businesses and ordered residents to stay home beginning in mid-March, before slowly reopening the economy in the end of May.

In March, citywide violent crime (including murders, rapes and robberies) dropped 4%, while property crime (including thefts and burglaries) remained relativity flat compared to March 2019. In April, violent crime dropped 25%, while property crime rose 7%. Violent crime continued to decrease in May, dropping by 21%, while property crime rose 10%.

Courtesy the LBPD.

Overall crime rose 5% in May compared to May 2019, which was largely driven by property crime. However, year-to-date figures show a modest 1% decrease in citywide crime.

Garage burglary was the offense with the steepest increase, with 62 reported cases in May.

Courtesy the LBPD.

The city’s East Division was hit the hardest with 26 cases, up from three reported in the same time last year.

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in an April interview said the rise in property crime was possibly due to the release of jail inmates to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Officials in March eliminated bail for many lower-level crimes, which includes 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.”

While overall violent crime dropped 13% from January through May compared to the same time last year, the city last month saw a wave of gun violence that has mostly hit a section of North Long Beach.

Over the span of a week, 12 people were wounded and four killed during about a dozen different shootings across Long Beach.

Three of the deadly shootings all happened within a mile of each other in the North Long Beach neighborhood around the Michelle Obama Library.

Police have said that some of the shootings are being investigated as gang-related.

It’s not unheard of for shootings to come in clusters in Long Beach, and violent crime typically increases in the summer months, police have said. Last summer, eight shootings occurred one weekend, and although no one was killed, six people were wounded.

At the time, police suspected at least part of that spike in violence was tied to a specific gang.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].