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Climate change, mild winters inspire rising crime rates

"The relationship between climate, human interaction, and crime that we've unveiled is something that will have an impact on people's wellbeing," researcher Ryan Harp said.

By Brooks Hays
Climate change, mild winters inspire rising crime rates
New research suggests warmer winter temperatures increase the odds of violent crime. Photo by View Apart/Shutterstock

Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Thanks to global warming, winters are getting shorter and warmer. As a result, police are staying busy.

According to new research published in the journal GeoHealth, rising crime rates are accompanying milder winter temperatures.

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Numerous studies have isolated the primary ingredients necessary for crime. The recipe calls for a motivated offender, an acceptable target and the absence of someone -- whether a law enforcement official or motivated citizen -- who might intercede.

The new findings suggest these three factors are more likely to converge when winter temperatures are warmer. Warmer summer temperatures were not correlated with an increase in crime.

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Previously, scientists have argued warmer temperatures trigger more aggressive behavior, leading to an uptick in crime, but the latest research suggests temperature's influence on human emotion and temperament doesn't explain seasonal fluctuations in crime rates.

Instead, the data showed temperature's effect on people's daily routines best accounts for the shifting crime rate.

"We were expecting to find a more consistent relationship between temperature and crime, but we weren't really expecting that relationship to be changing over the course of the year," lead researcher Ryan Harp, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, said in a news release. "That ended up being a pretty big revelation for us."

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The new study went beyond the basic link between temperature and crime by looking at seasonal changes and regional patterns. The analysis helped scientists identify the underlying mechanism controlling the link between weather and crime.

Researchers used a sophisticated model to analyze detailed spatial data related to temperature and crime rates. The combined climate variability and crime data collected between 1979 and 2016 in 16,000 cities across the United States.

Data collected in cities in the colder regions of the country, like New England, revealed the strongest link between warmer winter temperatures and spikes in crime.

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Researchers hope their work will inspire in increase in work designed to measure the effects of climate change on human health and behavior.

"Ultimately, it's a health impact," Harp said. "The relationship between climate, human interaction, and crime that we've unveiled is something that will have an impact on people's wellbeing."

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