Investigating Whether Crime Rates Rise in the Summer

There is a common thought that crime rates rise during the summer. However, it’s interesting to think about whether that’s true or not and whether it’s more of a regional thing.

This year, there’s also the coronavirus going around, and it’s having an impact on virtually everything in our lives. Is Covid-19 impacting summer crime rates?

Let’s look at these questions in more detail as we try to separate fact from fiction.

Rising Summer Crime Rates Are a Regional Phenomenon

It’s a cliché that just about everyone seems to believe in: the weather heats up, and crime rates rise along with the mercury. There appears to be at least some validity to that. This year, for instance, Los Angeles crime rose 250% in the first week of June.

However, it still might be an oversimplification to say that all crime is up across the board this summer in every major US city. For instance:

  • Violent crime is down in New York this summer compared to last year
  • Violent crime is down in Chicago this season as compared to 2019 as well

Different cities sometimes have different violent crime definitions. Usually, though, they count rapes, murders, robberies, and assaults in those categories.

There’s no denying if you look at those particular crime stats for summer 2020, you’ll see that there’s no dramatic uptick across the board. Crime remains more of a regional phenomenon, whether it’s summer or not.


Trump’s Claim of Rising Crime Rates

President Trump has tried to use rising crime rates to justify the use of federal law enforcement agents in Portland to quell protestors. He hinted that he would send these agents to other cities, which he claimed were “plagued by violent crime.” On his list were:

  • New York
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Detroit
  • Baltimore

Violent crimes are down in all those cities, continuing a downward trajectory that goes back to the beginning of this century. In New York, for instance, in the year 2000, there was a violent crime rate between 65,000 and 60,000. In 2018, it was down to between 45,000 and 40,000.


Is Anything Different this Year?

As for crime in the summertime, anecdotal evidence from most major US cities indicates a slight rise during the summer months, though nothing as catastrophic as the President suggests.

In fact, in April and May of this year, violent crime was down in almost all major cities, probably a direct result of coronavirus lockdowns. It seems as though even the criminals were nervous about potentially catching the virus.


There is a Rise in Some Violent Crime

However, we cannot ignore that this year, as the summer has gone on, there has been a rise in one violent crime category in several cities, and that is murders. Chicago does lead the way in that category, with homicides surging back in June. Philadelphia is seeing the same thing.

While it’s a disturbing trend, we must also note that murders are down elsewhere, including other major cities where the President has deployed federal officers. In Albuquerque, NM, there’s been a drop off in the murder rate this summer.


Why the Spike in Murders?

All this begs the query of why the murder rate in some cities is rising, while in others, it’s no different this summer than it usually is, and it’s even down in other locales.

It’s tough to say precisely why that is. However, experts feel that at least in part, it’s as simple as most people make it out to be: the weather heats up, and more people are outside. This includes both victims and perpetrators.

It’s reasonable to see a murder increase in some cities during the hot summer months when both urban predators and their prey hit the streets.

This summer might be a little worse in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago simply because people are sick of being stuck inside. They’re taking to the streets joyfully, reveling in the hot weather, even while the pandemic still rages.

When they do that, they sometimes find themselves in danger. Rising crime rates trace directly back to desperation, and the housing crisis and widespread joblessness are both playing a part this year.

The takeaway seems to be that violent crime often does rise to some extent in the summer, and this year is perhaps even a little worse than others because of Covid-19. Bearing that in mind, be careful, not just of the virus, but of criminals who might wish to harm you.

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