Crime Rates Projected to Rise Again with Summer Heat

The start of summer means more time outside, but for Simone Townsend, rising temperatures lead to anxiety about safety in her Penrose neighborhood.

“The time frame I start to worry is when it starts to warm up, whether it’s in May or June or April,” Townsend said.

So her 12-year-old son and her grandchildren aren’t allowed to go outside without her or another adult. Townsend said she’s seen violence just outside her home in north St. Louis, and when summer starts, the risk only increases.

“It’s bad because they just can’t play outside without having to worry about gunshots,” Townsend said.

She’s not imagining it. Researchers and police say there is a correlation between warmer temperatures and the rise of violent crime.

“What we see in data over the last couple of decades is that serious violence tends to be about 5 to 6 percent higher in the summer than it is during other months of the year,” said Janet Lauritsen, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The reason crime spikes in warmer weather is fairly simple, according to Lauritsen. As temperatures rise and more people head outside, the chance of violent encounters also goes up.

“There are more available targets, more interactions between people which could lead to conflict, which may result in some sort of violence,” Lauritsen said.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department receives 5,000 to 6,000 more calls for service during the summer months, said Major Mary Warnecke.

She said the police department follows crime trends, particularly in the “quadrangle,” a region in north St. Louis stretching from Goodfellow Boulevard, Vandeventer Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and West Florissant Avenue. That area tends to see a large number of violent crimes, particularly during warmer weather.

Warnecke said the department doesn’t put additional officers on the streets during the summer months.

“We are limited to the resources that we have in any given time. We don’t have additional manpower,” she said. "But we do have a variety of support units that have some flexibility that we can relocate as the need arises.”

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