It's Freezing Outside. What Does That Mean For Crime?

Some good news for you: Crimes drops in cold weather.

"When autumn comes, it doesn't ask. It just walks in, where it left you last," John Mayer once sang, bemoaning the onset of cold weather. "And you never know, when it starts until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart."

But that glass-encased heart is at least safer in winter because crime drops across the board. Yes, almost every kind of common crime decreases with temperatures. Household burglary? Down 11%. Aggravated assault? Down 7%. Rape and sexual assault? Down 9%. Domestic violence? Down 12%.


Why does crime go down in winter?

There are a few theories:

  • The Routine Activities Theory - In the summer, more people go outside, creating more opportunity for crime. This theory is backed up anecdotally by recent stories about warm weather coinciding with violent weekends in New York and Chicago. In fact, one researcher predicted that increased temperatures resulting from climate change will cause 30,000 more U.S. homicides over the next 90 years.
  • Hot weather makes you angry - Hot weather increases your body temperature and leads to increased heart rate, circulation, and testosterone production.
  • Kids are out of school - Crime committed by teenagers decreases in the colder months when they are in school and not left to their own devices. This is why community groups have pushed school districts to provide after-school programs to keep kids busy.

December is a slight outlier

This also makes sense: With the pressure of holiday shopping, there is a slight spike in crime in December as people try to make their Christmas shopping lists a bit more budget-friendly with some old fashioned shoplifting.

So, be safe this holiday season. And don't steal.