BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Over the past few months, several police departments across central Alabama have been seeing a decrease in crime, a trend they are partially attributing to the COVID-19 pandemic and more people staying at home.
The Birmingham Police Department reported a 28.3% drop in total citywide crime so far in 2020 compared to this same time in 2019. Some crimes that saw a big decrease were robbery, unlawfully breaking and entering a vehicle, and burglary.
BPD Chief Patrick Smith said COVID-19 has helped in some areas, but also gives credit to the way they’re policing. He claimed the department has seen a downward trend in crime for about a year now.
“I think it has an impact on the type of crime that occurs within the city. Certainly if you look at areas such as our burglaries and things of that nature, if people are home they typically are not going to come so some areas you can account for COVID-19 but others we’re still showing decrease in overall crime,” Smith said.
The Pelham Police Department also reported a decrease in crime. Between April and July, the department reported 70 theft cases compared to the same time period in 2019, when that number was up to 91 cases.
For cases involving the unlawfully breaking and entering of a vehicle, Pelham reports there were 23 cases between April and July compared to the 32 cases reported this time last year.
Pelham Chief Pat Cheatwood said COVID-19 definitely made a positive impact in terms of crime.
“Looking at our other calls like thefts, car break ins, those type of crimes, those remain low also and basically, we’ve seen a decrease in crime. I think it’s because more people are at home, there are more people watching their homes during the day. Most residential burglaries happen during the day while people are at work and people being out of work unfortunately,” Cheatwood said.
Like Birmingham and Pelham, Hoover also credits people staying home during the pandemic to the decrease in crime over the last few months. Between March and May, the Hoover Police Department reported a 38% decrease in crime compared to that same time last year.
Contrary to their reports, both Cheatwood and Smith expected the opposite results when COVID-19 first hit Alabama.
“I thought we may have a spike in crime, but I’m not surprised other areas are lower or maintaining the same numbers as we are. Early on there were so many unknowns we didn’t know, but you just assume when there is so much chaos there will be more crime, especially with thefts but we haven’t’ seen that,” Cheatwood said.
“We were expecting more of a significant increase in number one, our domestic, maybe some theft related crimes but so far we have been able to hold steady,” Smith said.
Both police chiefs said the way they police have changed due to the pandemic, like how they approach people now, but it has not affected the way they protect their respective cities and respond to calls.
“High visibility, that’s what we’re all about. We get comments about that all the time you can’t drive through Pelham without seeing a Pelham police car and that’s the way we want to keep it,” Cheatwood said.
Smith said the downward trend is a good start and wants to see it continue to go down. He said he has a goal of seeing crime down by 30%.
“Our goal overall is to reduce crime, reduce the fear of crime and make sure we’re policing the city in best way possible,” Smith said.
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