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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Justice Movement

Reports of domestic violence, other crimes fall in LA following stay-at-home orders

By Hyeyoon (Alyssa) Choi

April 7, 2020 9:38 p.m.

Reported crime in Los Angeles decreased by 45% during the two weeks following “safer at home” orders issued March 19 compared to the two weeks prior.

Despite the overall drop in crime, instances of reported crimes in Westwood remained relatively consistent, according to crime statistics from LAPD and analyzed by the Daily Bruin. UCPD Community Services Division Lt. Scott Scheffler said there has been a general decline in crime on campus.

With fewer people on campus and on city streets, reported crime appears to have generally decreased. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County officials issued “safer at home” orders for residents on March 19 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. UCLA also moved classes online, which prompted more than 80% of students living on the Hill to vacate their dorms.

Compared to a trend of hot prowl burglaries last quarter, there have been no reported thefts in any residential halls in recent weeks, occupied or not, Scheffler said.

“Right now, there’s only two to three people living on my floor, so it’s probably unlikely that someone would come in,” said Bianka Shibuya, a third-year exchange student majoring in international development studies who is currently living on the Hill. “I always felt safe here.”

But with UCLA’s decision to consolidate rooms, Shibuya said she feels the need to start worrying more about burglaries and the virus.

Within organizations that provide domestic violence hotlines like Peace Over Violence, there was mounting speculation that vacant streets would lead crimes to relocate indoors, triggering an upsurge in domestic reports.

Immediately after the statewide shutdown, Peace Over Violence braced for a spike on the hotline, especially regarding domestic violence.

“We look at the past, and we get spikes on the hotline when there’s a disaster like earthquakes (or) when there’s a movie about domestic violence and people are triggered. Even the #MeToo movement,” said Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit addressing sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence.

Risk factors of intimate partner violence include economic stressors such as low income and unemployment, as well as social isolation, lack of social support and even overcrowding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Given stay-at-home orders and escalating concerns over a global recession, many individuals may face these risk factors or already be at heightened risk for intimate partner violence.

However, a spike in reported cases has not appeared, Giggans said.

In fact, LAPD’s crime data revealed more than a 28% decrease in intimate partner assault reports since the stay-at-home order was issued in California compared to the two weeks prior.

Giggans said she suspects that the dip could be a result of an assumption that police departments and hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19-related issues. Those affected by domestic violence may also be pushed into survival mode against the virus, she added.

“They may be more worried about getting sick than they are about getting slapped or being oppressed,” Giggans said. “COVID-19 is dominating everything.”

Even so, she said there is still a consistent stream of people reaching out for help, who manage to find narrow windows of opportunity to dial the hotline.

“I’m going to be worried when we stop getting calls. That’s going to point to me a concern around whether things are getting dicier at home. But you know, we had people call us from the bathroom, so people are reaching out,” Giggans said.

Though an increase in domestic abuse calls may come in the future, the effects of the pandemic remain largely unknown, leaving many scrambling to adapt along the way, Giggans said.

If you want to talk to someone about what you read in the article, please call:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Peace Over Violence Hotline (Central Los Angeles): 213-626-3393

Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-978-3600

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Hyeyoon (Alyssa) Choi
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