Is Crime on the Rise?

After decades of declining crime rates, crime rates have increased since the COVID pandemic. This is an issue that affects us at a local, state, and national level.

In 2020, the year of the pandemic, the crime rate peaked at a 28.6% increase from the year prior. Property crimes went down, however, violent crimes went up. Although the official FBI crime statistics for 2021 and 2022 are not available yet, studies have been able to show that through the halfway point of 2022, violent crimes have very slightly decreased from 2020 (still nearly 20% higher than in 2019), however, property crimes are up, breaking the post-pandemic trend in 2020-2021.

The increase in crime, experts believe, is due to extrenuating circumstances that arose due to the pandemic. The pandemic caused lots of stress for many and not just the fear of getting sick. COVID lockdowns led to many people getting laid off, and the resumption of rent payments as well as food costs meant that some people had to break the law in order to survive.

Psychologists believe that stress has an impact on the increase of violent crime. As people get stressed, they tend to get angry, which is what the rationale is. This is validated by the crime data, considering that violent crime, particularly homicide, reached unprecedented heights during the last 3 years.

Coming closer to home, Apopka High School itself has experienced issues with crime, however to a far lesser extent. Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Education met with OCPS over a Grand Jury report about how “the district responded to criminal acts by students in Apopka schools.” This report outlined how Apopka schools from 2016-2019 would underreport and suppress the reporting of crimes happening in schools, as well as having “hampered police investigations.” This, combined with the county policy that police need to obtain a subpoena to get videos of recorded crimes, raised many concerns with officials in the state and in Orange County.

It is important to note that while these allegations do create cause for concern, they shouldn’t be the cause for too much angst, as the issues occurred under different school leadership. However, this begs the question of how school officials are adapting to help keep our students safe. Principal Heinz outlined how students are kept safe at school by explaining, “We have several policies and procedures to continue to keep our students safe. The main one is that we check IDs at the door to make sure that the students that are on our campus belong on our campus. We ask our teachers to wear their IDs at all times. Teachers are asked to keep their doors locked at all times to protect the students that are in their classrooms. We have supervision at all times during class change and lunches to supervise students to make sure they are making good choices.”

When asked whether he has noticed an increase in crime since the pandemic, he said, “I think it is extremely difficult to compare apples to oranges. Obviously, if you don’t have kids on campus, it’s going to be low numbers. During the pandemic and LaunchEd we had fewer people. Whenever you have fewer people you will have fewer events. So I would not say there has been an increase in my time in Orange County Public Schools over the last 19 years, but I think there is a change in behavior but not an increase.”

While our society is experiencing issues with crime, it seems to have a smaller effect on the day-to-day activities on campus. While there always should be a concern, there shouldn’t be too much stress caused over the matter.