CLEVELAND — With fewer people on the streets during the COVID-19 pandemic, most cities across the U.S. saw decreases in violent crime during the first month.
Here in Northeast Ohio, though, the Memorial Day holiday brought the perfect storm.
It was the first nice weather weekend following the state of Ohio's reopening, bringing people out of their homes. We’re at the end on the month when government checks have run out, and the state is facing an economic downturn that's left more than a million people in Ohio unemployed.
There were nine shootings and three stabbings in Cleveland from Sunday to Monday evening. Three shootings were reported in Lorain over the weekend.
And in Akron, there were four on Thursday alone.
Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney from the Northern District of Ohio says, “It's an alarming trend and it does seem to coincide with the fact that you have people who are out of work, you've got kids who are home from school, you've got nowhere, generally speaking, for people to be able to entertain themselves.”
According to FBI statistics, historically there's been little correlation between unemployment and violent crime rates. But Herdman says this situation is different. “I don't think that we have any precedent for the kind of economic downturn that we've seen over the past couple months where the stop in economic activity has been so abrupt and has been caused by a Pandemic with a complete shutdown of activity,” he explains.
Burglaries also typically decrease during times like these, because no one really has anything to steal, nor are there many people to buy the stolen goods. Add in the fact that with so many out of work, most people are at home. And thieves are just like us, they’re scared of the virus and have avoided going into stranger’s homes.
But there's something else at play here.
Burglaries of firearms dealers are up, as is the actual volume of firearms that are being stolen during those burglaries.
Another issue is that recreation centers and community services for at-risk kids have been closed.
Allen Smith, Chief Programs Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland says, “When young people are out of school, the Boys & Girls Clubs fills the void for a lot of those young people by providing them with constructive things to do. And then also positive role models who are there to help them make good decisions. Anytime that is disrupted, it creates an opportunity for additional challenges to occur.”
They've tried to fill the gap with virtual events, but it's not the same. 14-year-old Daveion Sims, who frequented his local rec center says, "Without anything to do people get bored and get sidetracked."
The good news is most Cleveland recreation centers open in July and nine local Boys & Girls Clubs are re-opening June 15th.
Cleveland is also getting federal money for 30 police officers as part of a Violent Crime Taskforce, and more investigators for the State Patrol.