CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – 2020 was a year like no other, and crime data from the state shows just that. The 22News I-Team took a closer look at how the lockdown impacted crime statistics and the long-term effects we’re seeing today.
“Most crime occurs because we’re in contact with one another. Go into isolation, remove the contact and you’re not going to see as much crime,” says David Kuzmeski, a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at American International College (AIC) in Springfield.
When schools, stores, and restaurants closed, the streets that were once filled with people became empty.
Northampton Chief of Police Jody Kasper said that’s one of the main reasons why their arrest numbers went down by nearly 48 percent.
“Downtown was very quiet and that we get a lot of our call volume data comes from downtown with disturbances and thefts and all of that, so those calls weren’t coming in. Our general call volume dropped as well,” said Kasper.
The state saw just over a 20 percent decrease in arrests in 2020 and yet crime was up roughly 25 percent in Massachusetts, with Boston seeing an almost 300 percent increase. When the I-Team looked at data from western Massachusetts, we discovered most cities saw declines including Springfield, Holyoke, and Greenfield.
Northampton, though, saw a seven percent increase. Chief Kasper said that was fueled by one major thing. “Our crime went down in almost all areas. What we saw a giant rise in is unemployment crime,” reported Kasper.
There were 272 cases of fraud in Northampton in 2020 compared to just 97 in 2019. Chief Kasper said those numbers went back down to normal last year. However sexual assault cases saw an opposite trend in Northampton, down by 51 percent. Chief Kasper said cases went back up last year because mandated reporters in schools and doctors offices were able to spot when something wasn’t right.
“I don’t believe there was any decline in that sort of activity and that sort of victimization but our mandatory reporters were not having contact with kids anymore and it just goes to show how important those mandatory reporters are,” the chief said.
AIC Criminal Justice Department at American International College
Professor Kuzmeski says when we’re looking at crime data it doesn’t always paint the full picture. “The FBI keeps what’s called the Uniform Crime Report. The UCR only reports crimes reported to the police and only certain categories of crime,” he remarked.
Still, Kasper said the impacts of that first year of the pandemic did not go away with a flick of a switch when 2021 arrived. “It’s been more gradual. We’re seeing our call volumes and kind of our regular calls coming back. Kind of our regular activities coming back but we’re not all the way there yet.”
You can see what crime statistics were like in your community in 2020 by going to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer.