In the late 1970s, two criminologists named Marcus Felson and Lawrence E. Cohen came up with the “routine activity theory.” This theory, in short, states that when societal circumstances change, so do opportunities for crime. The routine activity theory revolves around three things:
- a motivated offender with criminal intentions,
- a suitable victim or target, and
- the absence of a capable guardian who could prevent the crime from happening.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominating everything right now is the perfect opportunity for crimes of routine activity theory. With many businesses shuttered across the country and people ordered to stay home as much as possible, we have seen some repercussions that are sometimes not at all surprising.
Crimes of Opportunity in Seattle WA
Here in Seattle, car thieves are not taking any time off to stay at home. And with the city suspending parking restrictions, some people may not realize that their car was stolen from being parked in front of their house. Recently, officers working for the Major Crimes Task Force were surveilling a known-car thief. When they ran the license plate of the car he was sitting in, the car was not reported as being stolen. The officers tracked down the owner and asked if he knew where his car was, and that's when he discovered it had indeed been stolen. The officers were able to arrest the car thief.
Washington State Patrol troopers have also reported that some drivers are taking advantage of less traffic and open roads to test their car's speedometers. There has been an increase in the number of speeding tickets issued, with one car in King County clocked at doing 120 mph. Speeding excessively is considered reckless driving, and as WSP Trooper Rick Johnson noted,
[This] encumbers the healthcare system because they're [drivers in a crash] going to need to go to the hospital and be treated. And right now, we have to keep the healthcare system as ready as possible for any COVID patients.
Outside of Washington State, the same phenomenon is occurring. For example, in Los Angeles, there has been an uptick in porch pirate thefts. More people are ordering things online than ever before to avoid leaving the house, and Los Angeles police learned that some delivery workers have been told to avoid touching gates, latches, and handles, which means they are sometimes just leaving packages on the sidewalk or in another very visible place. Some thieves are even following delivery trucks or vans and snatching packages as soon as they are dropped off.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures in Seattle WA
If you have been charged with a crime during the coronavirus pandemic, there could be a perfectly good explanation for what happened. Seattle criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi is here for you and is happy to provide a free consultation of your case. His firm is open for business and ready to assist. Call 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form today.