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Do Certain Weather Conditions Affect Crime Rates?

by | Feb 23, 2021 | Criminal Defense

About the Environmental Factors That Cause Fluctuations in the Crime Rate

As long as humans have existed, we have been making rules and violating our own rules. In other words, we have been committing crimes. Criminology, or the scientific procedure behind studying both social and individual criminal actions, has not been around quite as long. The field has its true origins in Europe between the late 1700s and early 1800s. This was when classical school of criminology founders created theories on crime and punishment development. Today, our modern understanding of criminal behavior gives us insight into criminal motivations, which are usually related to the following factors:

  • Poverty
  • Peer pressure
  • Drugs
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Family conditions
  • Societal norms and standards
  • Unemployment
  • Deprivation

However, there is another factor that is not usually considered, but can actually play a major role in criminal behavior, and that is the weather. The recent turbulent weather in Texas has quite literally taken our world by storm. In the winter of 2021, Texas has faced record-low temperatures as well as snow and ice that has made the roads impassable. This caused the state’s electric grid operator to lose control of the power supply, which left millions without access to electricity.

Most major events like this create a domino effect in individual’s lives. Major natural events like this affect the lives of all those nearby and cause us to question even the mundane details of our routines. Because we are a criminal defense team, it makes sense that the weather-induced power outage caused us to consider how weather and crime are correlated.

As it turns out, temperature and crime rates do have a correlation. Even though there was an uptick in crimes due to the power outage, which was caused by unusually low temperatures, this is not usually the case. More often, it seems, an increase in temperature is correlated with an increase in crime rates.

A recent study by the University of Southern California found that days with highs of more than 85 degrees saw a 2.2% rise in general crime and a 5.7% increase in violent crime, on average. The study showed that the relationship between heat and crime was accentuated in higher poverty neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods with housing built before 1949, which would be less likely to have an efficient HVAC system.

When we think about the conditions necessary for a crime to occur, we think of three primary elements: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a guardian like a police officer. These three conditions are more likely to co-occur when the temperature is hot outside and people are out and about.

The same study from University of Southern California that demonstrated the rise in crime on hot days showed a decrease in police activity on the same days. Specifically, they found a 6.6% decrease in cars pulled over by cops on days hotter than 85 degrees. This leads us to reasonably conclude that the police force, in general, exerts less effort on hot days. This combination leads to an increase in crime on a variety of levels. Below are some of the most common ways in which crime increases in the summer and on hotter days, as demonstrated by a study from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics that examined seasonal crime patterns:

  • Even though there is only approximately a 6% difference between violent crime rates between the winter and summer, there is a 12% difference in domestic violence instances between the cold and warm times of the year. This means that those in intimate relationships are more likely to experience violence from their partner in the summer months and on hotter days.
  • Burglary is 11% more common in the summer than in the winter, which is more seasonal variation than we see with any other type of crime.

If you find yourself facing criminal charges, Peter Barrett has extensive legal knowledge and can defend you through every season. Call us at (214) 307-8667 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.