COVID-19 & Justice

Crime Rates Did Not Rise Under Coronavirus-Propelled Decarceration, Says Report

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

In a report released Monday, the ACLU’s analytics team examined 29 large cities in counties with big jail populations across the U.S. and found no evidence that coronavirus-related early jail releases had any impact on crime between March and May, despite warnings from many law enforcement officials and Republican leaders. Instead, overall Part 1 crime rates declined in all but one city the researchers studied.

These cities included the cities of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino, as well as San Diego County, and the city/county of San Francisco. Among the cities outside of California were Austin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Louisville, Nashville, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

Denver was the only city that experienced an increase in overall crime during that time when compared with the same months during 2019.

The data analysis revealed no correlation between crime and how much local sheriffs and other justice officials reduced jail populations. “Fewer crimes occurred between March and May in 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019,” the report says, “regardless of the magnitude of the difference in jail population.”

In LA, where LA County justice officials considerably reduced jail populations, there were 8.5 percent fewer crimes during the first six months of 2020 than in the same period during 2019, data analysis by Crosstown shows. Some categories of crime have ticked upward, however, including vehicle thefts and hate crimes. Murders, too, have increased slightly.

The researchers noted that city crime rates are impacted by a number of complex external factors, including the temperature outside. (Crime rates generally increase during the summer, but less so in Los Angeles, which is temperate year-round.) Fears and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, too, have likely contributed to the reduction in certain types of crimes, as have efforts to reduce numbers of low-level arrests and prosecutions. Additionally, the crime rates between cities and counties included in the report could not be compared due to several factors, including differences between the jurisdictions in how crimes are categorized.

Carceral facilities have become some of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the nation in recent months.

More than 50,000 people in prisons, jails, and immigration lockups have tested positive for the virus, so far, and more than 600 of those people have died.

In California’s state prisons alone (not counting jails and civil immigration prisons), there have been 7,733 COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths among prisoners, and 1,667 cases and three deaths among prison staff.

Yet Governor Gavin Newsom and officials in other states have done far too little to protect those in their custody and care from the dangerous virus, advocates say. This week, protesters chained themselves to the fence outside Gov. Gavin Newsom’s home, over deaths that seem to occur daily among the state’s incarcerated population.

Reducing jail numbers and arresting fewer people, which each of the 29 cities/counties the ACLU researched have done, “has undoubtedly saved lives in jails and in surrounding communities.”

The researchers note that CA judges ended the statewide $0 bail policy, and haven’t signaled that they will bring it back, despite the fact that the pandemic is getting worse, not better. “Any and all policies to reduce arrests in light of COVID-19 should extend indefinitely, and should not be replaced with a system of fines and fees.”

“We don’t have to choose between public safety and public health,” the analytics team write. Local and state government officials must continue and boost efforts to reduce the number of people locked inside prisons and jails until the threat of COVID-19 subsides.


  • It is widely understood that the shut down reduced the opportunity for many criminals to commit crimes. Business were closed during most of this period. Many of those still open, workers worked remotely, at home. Daytime burglary generally happen when people are not home. During this period most people were at home! Assault in the public sphere have diminished because most people are at home. Bars and restaurants were closed… organizations in NYC reports a double digit increase in domestic violance reporting. Crime is skyrocketing since the reopening in NCY and elsewhere. Narrowing your analysis is convenient. Your continuing effort to tell only part for the story is disheartening. For all the rich people who give to WLA, please volunteer with some CBO who provides educational or other services to those currently incarcerated. After a few months ask yourself one question. Does the propaganda measure up to reality.

  • Witness la wants you to know that “crime” is down even though murder is up. So that’s nice to know, what’s a couple of extra deaths compared to things like shoplifting arrests. Never mind it’s hard to shoplift when everything’s closed, but witness la doesn’t want you to think about things like that, they want you to know that releasing criminals has not resulted in higher crime statistics. This isn’t a time to worry about who’s killing who. Witness la just isn’t into that kind of thing.

  • I stopped reading at “ACLU analytics team.” For God’s sake, stop slobbering over the communist, anti-American lawyers. I’m sure their motives are as pure as driven snow.

  • Excellent points, “Seeking”….not to mention the fact that the period in the study was only two months during the beginning of the pandemic). Even IF, in the long term, releasing criminals was actually GOOD for society, it completely ignores the fact that our system of justice still recognizes punishment as a consequence for crime.

    I’ve asked Celeste in the past and she (of course) didn’t respond, but I’m curious, is there ANY crime she (or Taylor) feel should be punished with a jail sentence? Rape? Child molestation/murder? Mass Shooting? Torture? Defacing a BLM sign? Or does she feel EVERY crime is actually a manisfestation of an illness and should be “treated,” not punished.

  • @Dose-Haha no joke, I stopped reading this article at that exact part as well. Sure, let’s listen to a study from one of the most biased organizations in America. Sounds like an accurate study to me….

  • Total bs as usual. This site becomes more of a joke daily. Spend less time on conjugals and more time doing actual fact finding.

  • It’s a shame so many Death Row inmates die of natural causes after decades of reminiscing and reliving their horrendous crimes. Thankfully Covid-19 is doing the job that the state is unable to. I can only hope these monsters suffered on ventilators before they died:

    The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation listed COVID-19 as a suspected factor for eight people on California’s Death Row. They are:

    Johnny Avila Jr., 62, died July 26 at an outside hospital. Avila was sentenced in Fresno County to die for murdering two women, one of whom was gang-raped, on a canal bank after a rural gathering near Fresno in 1991.

    John M. Beames, 67, died July 21 at an outside hospital. Beames was sentenced to die for beating his girlfriend’s 15-month-old daughter to death in Tulare County in 1995.

    Troy A. Ashmus, 58, died July 20 at an outside hospital. Ashmus was sentenced in Sacramento County to death for the 1984 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl who was fishing with her brother.

    Jeffrey J. Hawkins, 64, died July 15 at an outside hospital. Hawkins was sentenced in Sacramento County to die for the separate 1987 shooting deaths of a customer during a market robbery near Sacramento and a bar patron near Galt.

    David John Reed, 60, died July 7 at an outside hospital. Reed was sentenced to death in Riverside County for stabbing a Black homeless man to death in a racially motivated attack in Palm Springs.

    Dewayne Michael Carey, 59, died July 4 at an outside hospital. Carey was sentenced in Los Angeles County to the death penalty for stabbing a woman to death in her home during a robbery.

    Scott Thomas Erskine, 57, died July 3 at an outside hospital. Erskine was sentenced in San Diego County to die for beating, raping and murdering two boys ages 13 and 9 found dead two days after they didn’t return from bicycling along the Otay River in 1993. A genetic match linked him to their murders in 2004 while he served a 70-year term for rape.

    Manuel Machado Alvarez, 59, died July 3 at an outside hospital. Alvarez was sentenced to death in Sacramento County for a 1987 spree of mayhem that included raping a woman, killing a man while trying to rob him and knocking out a 78-year-old woman to steal her car.

    The two Death Row inmates whose deaths are under investigation are:

    Joseph S. Cordova, 75, died July 1 at San Quentin State Prison, where he was found unresponsive in his single cell with no signs of trauma. Cordova was sentenced to death in Contra Costa County for the 1979 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in San Pablo. A genetic match tied him to the crime in 2002 while he was serving a prison sentence in Colorado for child molestation.

    Richard E. Stitely, 71, died June 24 at San Quentin State Prison where he also was found unresponsive in his cell. Stitely was sentenced to death in Los Angeles County for the rape and murder of a woman in 1990 who was last seen leaving a bar in Reseda.

    The CDCR concluded that three other Death Row inmates who died this year succumbed to “natural causes.”

    Lonnie D. Franklin Jr., 67, the “grim sleeper” sentenced in Los Angeles County for the murders of nine women and a girl from 1985 and 2007, was found dead in his cell March 28. John Abel, 75, sentenced to death in Orange County for murdering a man during a robbery in 1991, died Feb. 15 at an outside hospital. And Thomas Potts, 71, sentenced in Kings County for murdering an elderly couple, died Feb. 5 at an outside hospital.

  • There’s no need to look up any stats. Any reasonable individual can plainly see that crime is drastically up due to reducing sentences, releasing prisoners, reducing crime levels (felonies to misd), bail apparently being outlawed and general lawlessness. Let’s factor in that LE is not being proactive whatsoever for understandable reasons!

    It is the non-reporting of crimes that makes compiling stats a breeze. Do store owners who may not have insurance coverage file a report for looting, vandalism, burglary? Does a car owner file a BTFMV report when he/she has no insurance? Do PD’s write report for each criminal act committed by rioters? For every object launched at officers? For every patrol car torched? For every act of conspiring to riot/loot/burn? Even if a citizen desires to have a report taken, many Depts do not take routine reports during Tactical Alerts or other activations. Sure, some PD’s provide online crime reporting; if a victim wants to wade through some all the nonsense to write their own report.

    Let us remember all the victims of spousal abuse, child abuse and other domestic violence that have not been reported because of isolation. It would be interesting to see numbers re: missing persons, runaways, and unresolved missing cases…. Bodies to be found later?

    This article lacks professionalism for not disclosing factors for NON REPORTING of crimes. We won’t even go into the reporting for the FBI’s UCR always had inherent problems with prompt/accurate reporting. If stats are so crucial – then read the WSJ article that claims jails are statistically safer than being at home re CV-19. So perhaps we should lock more people up to keep them safe?

    Samuel Clemens was spot on.

  • Hell was happy to welcome the latest round of evil scumbags that COVID claimed.
    Hell will also welcome those who work to protect evil. Lot of them out there, let’s hope Covid can expedite that process for them too.

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