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The Coronavirus, Law Enforcement, Corrections And Crime
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 03/30/2020

There are cities across the United States that have a significant crime problem. I assume that adding the coronavirus to the mix is keeping law enforcement and correctional officials up at night.

First, all homage and praise to cops, firefighters and correctional officers who are risking the lives and wellbeing like never before. The vast majority of society, regardless of who they are, understands the sacrifice you are making.

Second, I understand that there has been endless criticism of law enforcement (some of it deserved), but throughout it all, the vast majority of citizens (per Gallup) continue to hold cops in very high regard. Again, it doesn’t matter what group you belong to, the majority indicate that policing is one of the most trusted professions in America.

Third, that means that beyond medical personnel, law enforcement is the presumed leader as to keeping people safe.

The Challenges

Cops: Law enforcement is going to have to change. There will be fewer direct interactions with citizens. There will be fewer arrests. We will return to a policing strategy that preceded the Broken Windows-proactive arrests strategies. For officer safety, we have to limit contact unless the activity or criminality is egregious, TheDailyBeast.

From the article, “Normally have anywhere from six to 20 felony arrests a day,” Rob Sanders, the top prosecutor in the county, told The Daily Beast on Friday. “Yesterday we had two: one for a warrant that was issued months ago and another for a methamphetamine case. The day before, we had one arrest all day.”

“While the county of over 150,000 inhabitants only had one confirmed case of COVID-19 as of Thursday, Sanders said there had been “very little proactive policing” as a result of officers implementing CDC social distancing guidelines and growing anxiety over the pandemic.”

“Police aren’t conducting routine traffic stops unless the driver is doing something to put others in danger,” Sanders said. “Police are not stopping as many suspicious people on the street either. They might run them off, but they’re staying 6 feet away, so fewer people are being searched, patted down for weapons, and run for warrants.”

There are media reports stating that officers do not have protective gear, TheMarshallProject.

Officers are going to have to approach events and offenders differently, NBCChicago.

From The Marshall Project: At least 150 police officers and employees are quarantined in Detroit, and at least five have tested positive for COVID-19. Detroit Free Press. Nearly 100 New York City Police Department employees test positive, New York Post.

I understand that every police agency will publicly state that enforcement will not change tactics and arrests will be made as necessary, but we all know that adjustments are necessary. Sick cops and correctional officers will cause the justice system to grind to a halt.

Corrections: There will be an enormous amount of pressure to let everyone possible out of jails and prisons with a focus on non-violent offenders. As I write this, the New York Post is stating that thirty-eight offenders are testing positive for the virus in New York City jails. News reports are coming in regarding positive tests in prisons throughout the country.

Fifty-four percent of people in prisons are serving time for a violent crime. The vast majority of the remaining have multiple arrests and convictions for felonies or have a history of violence. We are all aware that most prison releases will be rearrested (75 percent) and reincarcerated (55 percent) per Department of Justice data, Recidivism. Based solely on the data, prison releases will have public safety implications.

Fraud: The coronavirus will prompt an endless slew of phony websites and false charities, Forbes. Law enforcement will not have the time to investigate them. An education campaign from the justice system is a must. It doesn’t matter as to what happens, law enforcement will be seen as the clear leader regarding fraud and citizens will ask for stewardship.

Domestic Violence: There are media reports warning of a rise in domestic violence during quarantines, ProPublica.

Civil Disorder: Newark, NJ, “We ain’t going nowhere. This is our hood,” one young man shouts at Newark police as he shoots the video, which contains profanity and racial epithets, FoxNews.

There are endless media reports of citizens buying guns and ammunition. People are uncertain as to what’s happening. Uncertainty breeds fear. Fear prompts overreaction.

Violent crime increased considerably since 2015 per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (USDOJ), Gallup and the Major Cities Chief Association. The FBI recorded small decreases in reported crime in 2018 and the first half of 2019, Violent Crime.

Before any of this happened, there were endless media reports of rising violence in cities throughout the country. There are cities with major crime problems, Most Dangerous Cities.

As I write this, there are no reports of major crime issues after reviewing the crime news services of a variety of sites. That could change quickly.

Police in new York and Los Angeles fear retail burglaries, TMZ.

But fewer people on the streets could mean less crime and disorder, New York Post.

There are still more people dying in Baltimore from gunshot wounds than the coronavirus pandemic, a trend that “social distancing” hasn’t slowed down very much. It’s gotten so bad that the mayor felt compelled to beg the gangs to stop shooting people so they can save hospital beds for the COVID-19 patients.


Our society is going through unprecedented times with unparalleled anxiety and uncertainty.

It’s clear from data that criminal offenders prey upon those perceived as easy targets, Victims.

None of us knows how this will all play out beyond the fact that citizens will look to law enforcement for leadership and guidance. It’s time to prepare and enhance our communications strategies, Coronavirus And Emergency Management. But it’s also time to discuss our civil disturbance policies and to get ready for whatever may come.

Like after 9-11, citizens will reembrace the role of law enforcement as protectors. We can’t let them down.

See More
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed (https://crimeinamerica.net/?feed=rss2) provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications and other announcements from the site.

Reprinted with permission from https://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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