Criminologists have long struggled to discover what increases and decreases crime rates, with the goal of making the world a more crime-free place to live. The idea is that crime is like a disease — if you discover what causes it, you also learn how to cure it. While people can (and should) excersise their own safety precautions by avoiding crime prone areas and using background check services like InstantCheckMate.com to see if the people in lives have a history of criminal behavior, research allows states and cities to implement policies that reduce overall crime rates.
This research has vindicated some common sense truths (like crime rates have a positive correlation to poverty levels), but it also discovered some surprising factors that can alter the level of crime in communities.
Here are three variables that surprisingly have an impact on crime rates.
Can your local weather report also report the crime rate? Actually, yes. In summer months, when hot weather encourages people to go out and do more social activities, crime rates increase. A study of crime in Minneapolis, Minnesota found that when the temperature climbed up to 80s degrees fahrenheit, the rate of violent crime climbed along with it. But there’s an upper limit to how powerful hot weather affects antisocial behavior. As soon as the temperature climbs past a more sweltering 90 degrees fahrenheit, people tend to go indoors and crime rates start to decrease.
2) Available Transportation
Increasing the availability of public transportation has a number of well-known economic benefits. It brings more customers to stores, it brings more employees to businesses, and it helps make transportation much more affordable for communities. But sometimes light rail transports criminals along with honest commuters.
Some merchants in the St. Louis Galleria discovered this shortly after MetroLink expanded their rail line to stop at the mall. Shortly afterwards, the shoplifting problem was out-of-control. In fact, police reported that the number of juveniles who were arrested for shoplifting increased sevenfold after the MetroLink expansion.
“It’s not as bad as it used to be on the weekends,” said one frustrated store manager.” But come here any weekday while school is in session — it looks like there’s an entire high school class here for a field trip. Instead of going to school, they come to the Galleria.”
3) Recreational Activities
Maybe criminals just need a better hobby. And maybe potential victims need a place where they can be safe from criminals. Research on the effects of available recreational activity shows that when people have productive and fulfilling things to do, it can have a very positive effect on crime rates.
When the city of Bakersfield, California installed a citywide after-school program for kids, lewd acts against children decreased by 46%. After community members installed a community garden in Philadelphia, burglaries and thefts dropped by a stunning 90%. City mayors claim that they also noticed a positive effect on crime rates when funding for recreation increases.
George Humma is a blogger living in Atlanta, Georgia. He writes about crime, social media, and internet security.