Understanding and Managing Violent Crime During COVID
In 2019, there were an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes and almost 7 million property crimes in the U.S. While these numbers appear staggering, when compared with YOY estimates for 2018, robbery offenses in 2019 fell 4.7%, burglaries dropped 9.5%, larceny-theft was down 2.8% and motor vehicle theft fell 4%. The most recent UCR statistics for 2020 continue to show a downward trend, something that’s been observed since the 1990’s.
As we analyzed the data, the process begged the question: So, what?
By all accounts, nothing has been straightforward in 2020. Where was the blip? The COVID pandemic must be influencing something, somewhere, right? Quite simply, though, what’s come to light about violent crime in 2020 seems to be just the normal hard truth – violent crimes still happen, albeit under different circumstances. Violent fatalities in the retail space are up, for example, but as Jon Groussman, EVP Consulting Practice notes, it’s hard to say whether or not it’s COVID-related.
“I think the jury’s still out,” Groussman says, “in the sense that, what we saw at the beginning of COVID when businesses were shutting down, burglaries were rising. It makes sense because businesses were closed to the public. Employees weren’t in the space and criminals took advantage of the fact that they could commit burglaries. But the numbers are not so clear on the violence front. I think it’s a continuation of what we saw even pre-COVID. Crime is down compared to what it was in the 80s and the 90s, and in a lot of cities, it’s been trending down for a couple decades now. However, we did see incremental increases before COVID in terms of aggravated assaults for violent robbery.”
Groussman continues, “So, I think it’s important to understand that this data doesn’t provide us the exact answer, but more important, to the businesses, it helps them realize that violent crime hasn’t gone away. The duty and responsibility are still there for the business owner. Whether it’s insider threats or third-party crime on the premises, they have to look at what remedies they can bring to the table to try to reduce them.”
For insurers, 2020 as a whole presented a unique set of fluid circumstances that tested the industry’s policy infrastructure. From the pandemic to wildfires to riots to CAT events, there were no shortage of claims. As mentioned above, for overall violent crime in the retail space, the volume is down but the severity is up. Tom Dolan, Manager of Claims & Research, is not necessarily surprised by these trends, as they may correlate with the mindset of the criminal in the midst of a pandemic.
“I think it’s a little early to make a determination as to how related to COVID it is overall,” Dolan says, “but we see in industries like armored car services that, if you make yourself a harder target, you make yourself less enticing to people who might be on the fence about committing a crime. It’s the committed criminals who are more likely to take action against you. So, if you have an armed guard, you’re going to get armed perpetrators attacking you. And I think we’ve seen that with COVID, there are fewer opportunities, so everything’s kind of been made into a little bit of a harder target and it’s the more motivated criminals that are going to go out and try to take advantage of those situations.”
Jon and Tom joined us for a Coffee Break and shared their thoughts on staying ahead of violent crime, the insurance response to civil unrest and how COVID is changing risk management. Check out the video below.