How crime rates during COVID compare to the Spanish Flu

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The most relevant line for me in the article: “it’s possible that other kinds of crime are up this year, but they’re simply going unreported.”

At the start of the pandemic, our neighbor (who worked at the hospital, specifically with people recovering from strokes) mentioned that the number of people coming in with strokes was down by about 50%. She didn’t think that people suddenly weren’t having strokes; she did think the rate was about the same, but they weren’t coming to the hospital.

I think it’s likely that drug and property crimes are happening, but not getting reported.


Also keep in mind much of what is illegal today was just fine back then. Depending on who died, might not have been a prosecuted homicide in 1918 if the victim was anything but White & straight.

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Homicides were still typically listed as homicides - they may just not have worked too hard on solving them.

Though “drug crime” wasn’t really a thing like it is now.


At least we got a temporary reprieve from all the mass shootings at schools.


That isn’t a particularly likely contributing factor, or we would expect to see vastly lower homicide rates in the south (a much larger share of the population was non-white). We actually see almost exactly the opposite. The deaths were still generally recorded as homicides, the search just didn’t go much further. I don’t have the link, because it has been a few years since I read the study, but early 20th century Jacksonville had something like double the homicide rate of modern Detroit.

The bigger problem is that the data is garbage. A lot of US cities and states didn’t keep good records on births, deaths, or migration until well into the 20th century. Homicide rates are low enough and the inter-year variability is high enough that even small changes in record keeping are likely to hide reality. Pair that with the immigration changes of their year before and any data that relies on time series information to track a trend in 1918 is deeply suspect.


1918 had its own fluke crime quirks—like the fact that the typically-criminalized lower classes were being sent off to fight in World War I

Although Armistice Day happened 11/11/18 the 1918 flu actually raged February 1918 to April 1920 so perhaps you meant “had been sent off” (e.g. killed during war) rather than “were being”? The “1918” moniker for the “Spanish” flu seems very similar to how Covid-19 (e.g. 2019) has actually most impacted 2020…

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