After several blissfully warm days during the New Year holidays, Atlanta has been hit by a bitter cold front leaving daytime temperatures in the 30’s and evening temperatures in the 20’s. Besides dampening enthusiasm for the new year, such cold weather may affect crime rates as well.
Crime is affected by weather in many ways. The elements influence our behaviors and emotions by inducing stress, causing depression, anger or agitation, or by creating environments in which crime flourishes. In extreme heat people also tend to drink more alcohol and get together more often, creating favorable circumstances for conflict. Consequently, violent crimes during summer greatly increase.
Criminologists have long accepted that blistering temperatures contribute to the rise of crime, but the connections between frigid conditions and illegal activities are less documented. While cold weather also augments anger and aggression, studies have shown that the resulting actions are less random than those committed in heat. Therefore, premeditated crimes such as property crimes and robberies increase.
What can you do to protect yourself from winter crimes?
- If you leave your home or business empty for several days in a row, be sure to follow these rules to reduce your risk for robbery.
- Don’t leave your car unattended when it’s warming up in the mornings. Thieves often search neighborhoods for these easy targets.
- Keep in mind that darkness falls much earlier in the winter months. In fact, in the Metro Atlanta area the sun sets at around 5:40 p.m. in January. Park in well-lit and safe areas, and if you feel uncertain, ask someone to walk you to your car.
- Finally, remember that just as more people remain indoors when it’s cold, there will be fewer witnesses and people to help you if you are in trouble. Remain vigilant.
In addition to bundling up against the freezing wind, be proactive in preventing crime.
Sources: National Crime Prevention Council; Ellen Cohn, “Weather and Crime;” and Peter Van Koppen and Robert Jansen, “The Time to Rob: Variations in Time and Number of Commercial Robberies.”