Will Climate Change Influence Crime Rates?

I congratulated a law enforcement official on a recent drop in crime in his city and he responded “I’d love to take credit, but it was the frigid weather last fall — in this job, I pray for hail and sleet”. On the other end of the temperature gauge, extreme heat also appears to reduce crime. Moderate heat causes agitation and may therefore lead to more physical violence, but when the mercury crosses 90 or so, most of us are simply too tired to kill each other.

I believe I am dead last among RBC bloggers in terms of knowledge of climate change and crime, so I tread gently here, but I wonder if climate change — particularly the change in the prevalence of extreme weather — will result in some re-allocation of crime rates around the world. One could imagine that a city like New York that gets 10 more incredibly frosty days and 10 more incredible stifling days a year would benefit in terms of a crime drop, whereas a city like Helsinki might lose some incredibly frosty days and therefore see a rise in crime.

This is all rank speculation of course, but that’s my favorite kind : )

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

2 thoughts on “Will Climate Change Influence Crime Rates?”

  1. On the other hand, insalubrious climates tend to go with lousier economies and higher levels of corruption. So I would forward the hypothesis that bad weather reduces crime, bad climate increases it.

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