Rising temperatures give rise to crime

by Tom Lopez

Although University police handle about the same number of calls during the summer as they do the rest of the year, the nature of some serious crimes changes with the temperature.
One particular change occurs with assaults. Although University Police Sgt. Joe May said the number of assaults on campus goes down overall, the number of serious assaults goes up. May attributes the shift to the population on campus.
“During the school year, you get a lot of little assaults, people bumping into each other and fighting,” May said. “In summer you get a lot less assaults, but when you do (get assaults) they’re a lot more serious.”
May said people have more time on their hands and act on their anger.
“They’re angry about something and they direct it at someone they know, or it’s adjunctive to a robbery. It’s more focused and less random,” he said.
May said bike theft also increases with the onset of warm weather. An average stolen bike costs $450, and is being used increasingly in the drug trade. Thieves can sell the bikes for $35 or $40 or give them directly to drug dealers.
“It’s almost like money,” May said. “It’s like the coin of the realm, a direct exchange medium.”
The trend isn’t limited to campus. Penny Parrish, media representative for the Minneapolis Police Department, said the weather correlation is also true in the city of Minneapolis.
“Certain types of crime do tend to go up more,” she said.
Incidents of homicide generally increase in warmer months. From January through April 1996, the city saw a total of 13 homicides. From May through August, that figure jumped to 50.
Parrish said she attributes the rise to a higher number of people on the street.
“A lot of this is common sense, you have a lot more people outside,” she said. “There’s fewer people out when it’s 40 below.”
Parrish said the city also sees a rise in burglary. The reason for this, she said, is that it is a “crime of opportunity.” People’s homes tend to be burglarized when they are at work, a time when many juveniles are in school. During summer vacation that changes.
“A juvenile who commits burglary either tends to do it after school or in the summer when they don’t have anything to do,” she said. “You can hit homes all the time.”
But Parrish and May said not all crimes fit into this warming trend.
For instance, May said the number of office thefts at the University decreases during the summer. Thieves blend in with groups of people to move around offices, May said. During the summer, when office traffic dies down, they are more likely to be noticed. “There are less masses to hide in,” he said.
In other crimes, the trend goes in the opposite direction. Car thefts, for example, increase in winter and decrease over the summer, Parrish said. When people start their cars and leave them unattended to warm up, thieves exploit the opportunities by simply getting in and driving away.
“And generally they wouldn’t be prosecuted because the keys were in the car,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to prove that person stole your car.”
Other crimes — like criminal sexual conduct, burglaries and robberies — are not affected by changes in the weather.
“Those don’t seem to be connected to any season,” May said. “They pretty much remain the same all the way through.”
Calls for domestic troubles also show little change throughout the year, Parrish said.
“The reason why a husband and wife are fighting could be from being cooped up in January,” she said. “It could be less of a problem when they’re yelling at each other from across the yard in June.”
Officer Charles Miner of the University Police Department said that even after the students leave for the summer, the number of incidents on campus staysabout the same.
“Even with the students gone there’s still plenty to do around here,” he said.