SIOUX CITY, Iowa — In Mid-March, restrictions and business closures began throughout the tri-state area.
With more people staying and working from home during March and April, did that impact local crime rates for the first 7 months of the year?
Sgt. McClure thought the city may have seen a rise in domestic violence calls, but that wasn’t the case.
According to the data, those numbers didn't rise, but they didn't fall either.
"We anticipated possibly seeing an increase in disturbances and domestic assaults because a lot of times when people are stuck in a place together, that's when our interpersonal conflicts come out and we will see some more fights and arguments and stuff like that,” Sgt. McClure said. “Luckily, we didn't see a dramatic increase in domestic violence, and we saw similar rates to what we did the year before."
With any domestic violence call, the Sioux City Police Department does a thorough investigation.
“We continue to try and reduce any rates we can and have whatever effect we can on domestic violence and try to thoroughly investigate each case."
The department responded to an average of 36 domestic violence calls each month, with the highest number of calls coming in August and the lowest in February.
The most frequent calls are considered disturbances, with no clear pattern to establish a rise or drop during quarantine.
"What a disturbance is for us, if we get dispatched to a couple of people arguing or being loud, typically it's some sort of interpersonal conflict that doesn't result in an assault or someone doesn't want to pursue charges, then it may get written up as a disturbance,” Sgt. McClure said. “So, we get sent there as a peacekeeper, try to separate the parties, work out some sort of solution.”
While there was no obvious change in the data for those two areas of crime, there were two others where the Sioux City Police Department did see a significant decrease during the shutdown period.
"As we entered into quarantine mid-March, we saw some of the numbers, such as the residential burglaries and the thefts and the shoplifting start to decrease,” Sgt. McClure said. “And then once we were in the heart of quarantine in the April timeframe, this is when we saw a huge impact on a lot of these property crimes."
The department went from responding to between 20 and 30 residential burglaries each month to just five in April.
That was nice to see that decrease as well because it's a huge violation to have your house burglarized and it really destroys people and their sanctuary, their sanctum has been violated by somebody and their stuff stolen like that. There wasn't a rise in business burglaries either, just a slight drop in March and April.
"A lot of officers were out working pretty hard during the night to try and curtail a lot of that, so hopefully we were able to have some effect on that,” Sgt. McClure said about the department’s patrol. “But luckily we didn't see an increase during the lockdown that we suspected might have happened."
There was one other crime that saw a drop: Drunk driving offenses. This was a bit of a surprise to the department.
Taking a look at the data, 54 arrests were made in February, dropping to 24 in March and just 19 in April. When bars and restaurants began reopening in May, 34 were arrested.
"During the shutdown, the rates dramatically decreased and then as people have come out of quarantine and we've gotten into the summer, the rates have shot up,” Sgt. McClure said.
When asked about violent assaults like shootings and stabbings, McClure says the city hasn't seen a noticeable increase but states that it's a concern regardless and the department is working to reduce them as much as possible.
"We want to see those reduced because one, it's extremely dangerous for people to be shooting off firearms in the city and not taking into account for those rounds,” Sgt. McClure said. “We've been very lucky that someone innocent hasn't been hit and that we haven't had more serious injuries come out of a lot of these assaults."
Another issue on the minds of Siouxlanders is recent graffiti on public and well-known areas of town, like the Grandview Park Bandshell, that was tagged twice this summer. McClure said they haven’t seen a rise there either, but that the places that are being tagged with graffiti are more well known.
“A lot of the graffiti, vandalism is considered criminal mischief. Criminal mischief rates are holding steady,” he said. “It's just a lot of these events have gotten more attention because they are more prominent landmarks. And some seem to stem from the other controversies and protests that's coming out.
We are hoping that this doesn't distract from the legitimate message that a lot of people are trying to push and have their voices and concerns heard," Sgt. McClure continued."It's unfortunate that some people try to distract from that by vandalizing the bandshell or statue. These have been more culturally significant areas so it's getting attention a little bit more, but we are not seeing higher rates of vandalism than what we usually do."
McClure says these numbers are just preliminary and may be slightly different than what is officially reported to the FBI at the end of the year which will give a clearer picture of if the shutdown had any impact on local crime.
"With crime, it's tough to say one thing is causing it,” he said. “There are a lot of different factors that affect crime rates and we try to address those as much as we can and also educate the public on what they can do to protect themselves and help reduce crime rates."
Sioux City isn't the only local community seeing a drop in crime.
South Sioux City is also seeing a decrease in crime in many areas. When comparing the first 8 months of this year to last year, assaults went down by half from 40 reported assaults to 20 this year. Thefts and burglaries also saw a decrease.
And similar to Sioux City, calls for domestic assaults also declined.
“Domestic assaults, which a person would think if you are crammed together, they would go up,” said South Sioux City Police Chief Ed Mahon. “However, they went down from 113 (calls in 2019) to 86 (calls in 2020). The trend has been down and that was numbers from January to September 2019 compared to 2020.”
The South Sioux City Police Department tracks crime a bit differently than Sioux City, looking at cumulative numbers for the year to date rather than a month-by-month breakdown.
There were some areas in South Sioux City where crime rates did increase slightly, one being DUI's, which is the Nebraska equivalent of Sioux City's OWI.
Chief Mahon said the city has had 71 DUI's this year compared to 58 at this time last year.
"The one that is interesting, even though we are careful at keeping our traffic stops to what is important, the DUI's have gone up."
Mahon says overall, the drop in numbers has been good to see.
“I think our numbers basically have gone down, which is really a good thing no matter what causes it. Some things have gone up, but for the most part, they are down,” Chief Mahon said.
I don't have a magic ball to tell us why, but they did, and you can surmise a lot of things, but it was gratifying to see. Any time you see a decrease, it's a good thing.To view the data in its entirety for the Sioux City Police Department and South Sioux City Police Department, click here to open the document.
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