Winter Cold Brings Reduction In Crime

Perhaps a relentless winter is good for something.

According to statistics provided by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, the number of crimes committed during colder, winter months is considerably less than the number of crimes committed during warmer parts of the year.

In fact, the Jamestown Police Department saw 50 percent less property crimes in January 2013 compared to sunshine-laden May 2013. Similarly, the fall and winter months of 2013 saw only half of the violent crimes committed between the months of May and July.

“We can attribute the lower numbers in the colder months to the fact that people are shut in and behind closed doors most of the time,” said Robert F. Samuelson, division commander of the Jamestown Police Department. “Whereas in the summertime, windows are open, doors are open, people are on their porch and there’s more interaction between people walking down the street.”

Chautauqua County Undersheriff Charles J. Holder agreed, indicating how nearly half of all county crimes reported in 2013-including violent and property crimes, drug possessions and DWIs- occurred between June and September.

Put simply, people are “out and socializing more” in the summertime, Holder said.

Indeed, there may be something to this.

According to Ellen Cohn, associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Florida International University, violent crimes do tend to increase “linearly” with heat.

“Uncomfortable heat tends to cause increased frustration, reducing one’s tolerance for annoyance that otherwise might be dismissed,” Cohn said. “A number of mediating factors have been proposed which may explain the relationship between heat and violent criminal behavior … such as alcohol consumption, vacation, leisure time and social interaction.”

Cohn added, however, that there was insufficient evidence linking heat with property crimes, and it was inconclusive whether colder temperatures somehow dissuaded individuals from committing crimes at all.

“Little research has been done on any weather variable except heat, and many weather conditions (such as fog and sleet) appear to have been completely neglected,” Cohn said.

This notwithstanding, statistics have and continue to show a correlation between colder months and a reduction in crime, suggesting that frigid temperatures and snow squalls can-in their own way- put a deep freeze on crime too.