Warm weather welcomes crime

Ella Fowler and Ella Fowler

As temperatures rise and graduation looms, more students are apt to commit crime. According to Sociology Professor Stephen Demuth, there are two dominant theories for why there are seasonal variations in crime. Routine activities theory and temperature aggression theory both explain the relationship between warmer weather and an increase in criminal activity, Demuth said. ‘[Routine activities theory] says crime is a rational thing. What happens is when weather becomes nice, more people are out as potential victims,’ Demuth said. ‘People leave their doors open, windows open. People get out and interact more, so their is more opportunity for crime.’ Demuth added the routine activities theory usually contains three components – a motivated offender, a suitable target and no protectors of the target. During the warmer months, there are more targets due to the increase in people who are outside and who leave their windows and doors open, Demuth said. ‘The other theory is what is called the temperature aggression theory which says violent crime tends to go up in the summer and some people have argued that maybe this has something to do with the heat,’ Demuth said. ‘Hot weather makes people irritable.’ Lt. Tony Hetrick of the Bowling Green Police Department said in the last couple of years criminal activity in the warmer months has not been nearly as busy as in the past, although he said he doesn’t know why. The correlation between the weather and crime rates has been an interest for many sociologists, according to Demuth. ‘It is hard to study it because you just use micro level crime rates of police department statistics,’ he said. ‘And look at them over [a period of] time and see the up and down trends of crime and try to understand one of the factors that participate.’ Hetrick said there are multiple factors associated with various crimes, not just weather. ‘There are so many different variables and it is hard to determine trends,’ Hetrick said. ‘We can’t really explain the trends or why the numbers keep going up and down.’ Historically, there has been high activity on the weekends leading up to graduation, but this year and in years past, it has leveled off. ‘We have had more activity graduation weekend,’ Hetrick said. ‘Then again, a lot of people want to get out of town. They have graduated and want to go.’ However, Hetrick said the reason weekends leading up to graduation might not be so high in activity is due to the Nuisance Party Regulations. Since the law was instigated in June 2004, there have been less parties involving underage activities, Hetrick added. The Nuisance Party Regulations basically state if a person holding a party is seen in violation of the law – like underage drinking – they can be cited for having a nuisance party, Hetrick said. Since August 2008, there have been 17 total nuisance violations including civil and criminal citations and warnings. ‘I think that [Nuisance Party Regulations] have curtailed a lot of the big parties in the past,’ Hetrick said. ‘They don’t get as huge as they used too.’ The weekend of April 24, the weather spiked to the high seventies and because of the warm temperatures, students and community members flocked downtown. Due to the increase in people, the Bowling Green Police Department brought in three off-duty police officers. ‘We had to call extra people in because the sergeant that was working saw the mass crowds downtown and thought we better have some more people to keep people out of the roadways and address any issues that might come up,’ Hetrick said. Despite the crowds, the weekend remained calm, as was this past weekend. And though Demuth said the weather may play a factor in crime, the age of defendants, or peak crime years, also plays a role.’ ‘ ‘Most crime whether it is violent or property crime is a juvenile pursuit,’ he said. ‘There are some people that say there is something called the age crime curve, which is pretty uniform across societies, gender, races and cultures.’ The peak crime years are between the ages of 15 and 22 years, Demuth said. Adding peer group activity is also a huge factor among college students because they are pressured by their friends and peer groups to participate in various criminal activities, like underage consumption. On campus, Campus Police Corporal Shawn Miller said it is a general rule to expect an increase in crime and violations when warmer weather approaches. ‘It is busy in the fall, then it slows down, then when it starts to warm up through spring break it gets busier and continues to increase through the rest of the school year,’ he said. Nuisance Party Regulations: A nuisance party is defined as a social gathering or party which is conducted on premises within the city and which, by reaons of the conduct of the persons in attendance, results in the violation of one or more of some of the following conditions or events occurring at the site of the said party of social gathering, or on neighboring public or private property: disorderly conduct; illegal open container; outdoor urination or defection in a public place, unlawful sale, furnishing, dispensing of consumption of beer or intoxication liquor; sale or furnishing of beer or intoxication liquor to an underage person; possession or consumption of beer or intoxication liquor by an underage person. Penalty: Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor; for a second offense committed within six months after the commission of the first offense, the person shall be guilty of a fourth degree misdemeanor. Source: Bowling Green Police Department