Milder winter has caused regional crime to increase in the United States over the past few decades, according to new research suggesting that crime is related to the effect of temperature on everyday activities.
A new study published in GeoHealth, the journal American Geophysical Union, states that crime rates in the United States are associated with warmer temperatures, and this relationship is seasonal.
The findings support the theory that the three main components combine to commit a crime: a motivated criminal, the right purpose, and the lack of a guardian to prevent violation of the law. In some seasons, namely in winter, milder weather conditions increase the likelihood that these three elements will merge, and that according to the new study, there will be a criminal and material crime. Unexpectedly, the warmer summer temperatures were not associated with higher crime rates.
New research does not agree with existing theories, according to which the hot temperatures cause aggressive motivation and behavior, according to the authors of the study. Instead, new research suggests that crime is related to the way climate changes people's daily activities.
"We expected to find a more consistent relationship between temperature and crime, but we did not really expect that relationship to change over the year," said Ryan Harp, lead author and PhD student at the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. "It was a very big discovery for us."
Understanding how climate affects crime rates can widen the limits of what scientists consider a climate-health combination, "said Harp.
"In the final analysis, it has an impact on health," he said. "The relationship between climate, interpersonal interaction and crime, which we have uncovered, has an impact on people's well-being."
The regional climate affects interpersonal interaction
Previous studies have shown a relationship between temperature and the incidence of crime, but none of them looked at regional relations and only some of them controlled seasonal changes, allowing researchers to identify the potential mechanism.
In a new study, Harp and his co-author conducted a systematic study of the relationship between large-scale climate variability and regional crime rates, using a technique that allowed detailed spatial data on seasonal temperature and crime rates to be aggregated across the United States.
Criminal and climate data from the UFC program (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and Northland Regional Reanalysis (NARR) of the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were compared. Data included 16,000 cities in five defined US regions – north-east, south-east, south-central, western and mid-west – in 1979-1 2016.
Their discovery that a violent crime is almost always more prevalent, when temperatures in the winter months are warmer, was particularly noticeable in areas with the strongest winters, such as the Midwest and North East, according to scientists.
New discoveries showing that rising temperature is important in winter than in summer are interesting, "said Marshall Burke, assistant professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University who was not involved in new research.
"The authors rightly suggest that it is more in line with warmer temperatures that change people's behavior patterns, such as going out more than a physiological story of temperature and aggression," he said.