In recent weeks, national news reports have documented a rise in domestic violence and suicide cases as people quarantined at home during the pandemic.
“Now, with families in lockdown worldwide,” the New York Times reported in April, “hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming.”
The City of Maricopa, however, has not seen dramatic increases in domestics and suicides, according to officials, though some other categories of crime have spiked in recent months.
According to data provided by the Maricopa Police Department, the category of assaults that includes reported domestic abuse has increased 5% in March over the same period last year. (There were 45 related arrests in March, officials said.)
Both Maricopa Police and Fire/Medical departments report they have seen no noticeable spikes in behavioral health calls, normally attributed to suicide and suicide attempts.
But that may not be the whole story.
Meagan MacCleary, community service program director of Against Abuse Inc., a Pinal County organization that provide services to domestic violence victims, predicts cases will stack up once the pandemic is over.
“Now, more than ever, victims have fewer opportunities to make private phone calls to reach out for help since they are confined in the home with their abuser,” she said. “It’s too early to have any statistics yet on exactly how much domestic violence has increased in Pinal County during this pandemic, but we are ready and prepared to assist victims who reach out once these unprecedented times are over.”
With this perspective in mind, organizations like Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV) have created a guide on how victims can contact help safely during the small moments of solitude they have.
ACESDV strongly recommends victims create a hidden “go-bag” of essentials, including a phone charger, money, medication and food that can be quickly grabbed for an escape from an abusive household if needed. Victims may find it easier to call a domestic abuse hotline during a walk outside, assuming it is safe to do so.
The fallout of COVID-19 has led to an increase in other types of crime.
Statistics on crime occurring since the onset of the pandemic, for instance, show a strong spike in the number of thefts, mostly incidents of retail shoplifting, according to MPD spokesperson Ricardo Alvarado. There were 63 theft arrests in March, an increase of 250% over the same period in 2019. There were 20 arrests and 18 arrests in 2019 and 2018, respectively, for theft.
Typically, shoplifting incidents include electronics and higher ticket items. During the coronavirus quarantine, however, thefts increasingly include household items such as cleaning supplies, food and clothing, according to city officials. In an arrest report published on InMaricopa.com, a woman charged with shoplifting at Walmart had targeted items such as Kool-Aid packets, loungewear and water filters.
With the downturn of the economy and unemployment reaching levels reminiscent of the Great Depression nationwide, Alvarado believes this type of theft will continue to be a trend. The effects of COVID-19 are far and wide, and the full impact on crime in Maricopa may not be known for some time.
This story appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.