Does Rising Heat Lead to Summer Crime Spikes?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 01, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The summer heat has various effects on different people. Some become lazy and want to lie in the shade all day, and some get hot and bothered, all riled up, which may be why crime rates rise with the temperatures during the summer season.

Scientists have found a connection between high temperatures and higher crime rates. But it's not clear why crime rises in the summer. No one knows the reason for the phenomenon but there is evidence that it happens, as well as two competing theories circulating. Wired examined the different studies of the climate crime connection and called the link between heat and violence hazy. Let's consider.

Hot in the City

Heat and agitation are associated with one another and Wired noted that violence does seem to go up as temperatures rise. People become more aggressive as they grow uncomfortable is one theory. But this is only true up to a point. After a certain level of heat is reached, people stop becoming more aggressive and just want relief. Reportedly, they want to flee rather than lash out when the heat's really on.

This theory sounds reasonable enough, but there is an alternative to consider, based on the Routine Activities Theory, which considers violent crime a function of social opportunity. Under that theory, crime rises when more people are hanging around outside in the heat but falls again when the heat reaches intolerable levels. When everyone stays home, there are fewer people around against whom to commit crimes.

So, both of the above theories might explain the connection between rising crime rates and rising temperatures. But correlation is not causation, which is to say that the fact that the things happen in a connected fashion doesn't mean that one is caused by the other. Rising heat is not necessarily causing rising crime even if it seems likely that it is a factor contributing to higher crime rates in summer than in other seasons.

The Summer Months

Other factors to consider are that teens and kids are out of school and hanging around, often unsupervised. That happens less during the school year, which may also explain lower crime rates when school is in session. The summer days are long and law enforcement perpetually short-staffed, so some cities -- like Albuquerque, New Mexico -- plan to address summer crime rates with mobile surveillance cameras. They hope these will help thwart the expected crime spike.


If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Speak to a lawyer today. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.

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