- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2020

Police departments are reporting varying crime trends during stay-at-home orders in the greater Washington area.

Some jurisdictions have seen trends involving gun-related and violent crimes remain unchanged, while others have noticed differences in property crime, intoxicated driving and online coercion.

“We can say that this pandemic has not changed the behaviors of our most violent offenders,” Kristen Metzger, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said in an email. “They continue to resolve disputes by shooting each other, even during the mayor’s stay-at-home order.”

Police Chief Peter Newsham reported at the end of April that trends in gun crimes in the District remain unchanged, while violent crimes were down by 3% and property crimes by 39% compared to the previous 30 days. Compared to the same period in 2019, violent crime is down by 14% and property crime by 31%.

Ms. Metzger said that many of the victims and suspects involved in the recent violent crimes have a history of such offenses, adding that repeat offenders are responsible for the trend.

Michelle Garcia, director of the D.C. Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, said late last month that agency officials haven’t seen an increase in reports of domestic violence but added that they are gearing up for a potential increase.

Ms. Garcia noted that requests for services for safety planning in response to a domestic violence incident have taken longer to fulfill because of limitations with transportation during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax County Police Department has noted changes in crimes and citations related to driving: From March 20 to April 20, about 300 citations were issued for speeding and reckless driving violations; during the same period last year, nearly 2,000 citations were issued.

The department also said it has seen a decrease in driving under the influence citations. Between March 16 and April 8, there were 49 violations, compared to 159 during the same time period the year before.

Fairfax County police warn in a blog post that, with schools closed and distance learning implemented, children are spending more time on the internet, which puts them at greater risk of online predators.

In April, the department executed Operation COVID Crackdown, an online sting that resulted in the arrest of 30 men, ranging in age from 20 to 74, who initiated explicit conversations and solicited sex from police officers posing as minors.

Other police departments around the region haven’t reported any new trends or weren’t able to attribute new trends to stay-at-home orders.

A spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Police Department said there were no significant changes in criminal behavior since the implementation of the stay-at-home order.

From March 8 to April 25, Arlington County has seen 11 burglaries, 92 car thefts, five weapons violations and 57 assaults, compared to 25 burglaries, 72 car thefts, 14 weapons violations and 70 assaults during that same period last year.

“It would be too early to know if these seven weeks of data are indicative of larger trends,” said Ashley Savage, a spokeswoman for the Arlington County Police Department. “There are many factors that can impact the volume of incidents reported to law enforcement and among those would be the stay-at-home order and the closure and restrictions placed upon non-essential businesses.”

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