Last month, reports of crimes committed in Burbank dropped to the lowest levels since April, as some studies argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving down certain types of crimes throughout the nation.
Overall, reports of so-called Part 1 offenses — a range of violent and property-related crimes — in July dropped about 15.8% from June, from 241 to 203, according to data recently published on the Burbank Police Department website. Last month’s total was also the lowest since April, which had 165 reports of Part 1 crimes.
The short-term decrease in incidents, meanwhile, is echoed in a longer-term statistic. With a total of 1,545 reported crimes from January to July, this year is showing the lowest number of offenses since 2013, when 1,508 occurred within the same six-month period.
Thefts, by far the most common type of crime occurring in Burbank, also fell 9%, from 143 cases in June to 130 in July.
“It is difficult to identify exactly why crime is down, but a large part of how we control crime is through an exchange of information,” Kenneth Panu, crime analyst for the BPD, wrote in a statement. Panu explained that regular meetings — often multiple sessions in a day — allow police to share information regarding cases and crime statistics.
A more serious crime stood out in last month’s data, however — an early-morning shooting on July 21 that left one Burbank man, Armen Sahakyan, dead and his wife in critical condition. Another man, a Los Angeles resident, was also found shot dead in the driveway of Sahakyan’s home.
The case remains under investigation, Sgt. Derek Green said.
Green, a BPD spokesman, said the department has traced a connection between the pandemic and auto thefts — “specifically scenarios where vehicles are left running or left unattended with keys in the ignition. This is a common scenario with delivery drivers who are working during COVID to deliver food, etc. to people staying home.”
Some studies, however, have suggested that certain crimes, particularly residential burglaries, have decreased as people have been staying more inside their homes.
In a review of more than 25 major U.S. cities, University of Pennsylvania professor David Abrams said he found that nearly all saw a dramatic decrease in crimes reported in the first month of the pandemic.
With fewer people traveling or leaving their homes, Abrams wrote in a report posted to his website at citycrimestats.com, robbery, home burglary and aggravated assault have seen significant drops, sometimes in the double digits.
Data from the Los Angeles Police Department show that year-to-date property crimes have dropped about 8.4% compared to last year in L.A., though thefts and attempted thefts of vehicles have increased by more than 34%.
Not all cities have seen drops in every category of crime. In Burbank, for example, the number of burglaries from January to July — at 174 — was two more than in the same period in 2019.
The 2020 figure, reported on the BPD website, does not distinguish between commercial and residential burglaries. Panu said there were nine commercial burglaries last month and 14 residential burglaries, though those figures could change as investigations of the incidents continue.
The bump in car thefts was also reflected in Burbank; with 183 such crimes, the first half of 2020 had more auto thefts and attempted auto thefts since at least 2011 for the same period. Crime statistics prior to 2011 are not available on the BPD website.
Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse mentioned the increase during Wednesday’s Police Commission meeting, advising that residents make sure to lock their cars and take their keys, and to avoid leaving valuables in their vehicles.
“We do have cars that do have keys in them, unlocked, and they do get stolen,” he said. “And all of that is very preventable.”
A total of three arsons also took place in July and June, according to Green. All were relatively minor incidents, including one involving a slide at the Santa Anita Playground that was set on fire and another involving a “flammable substance” that was thrown at a house and extinguished with a garden house.