Summer officially begins this week, evoking images of beach days, picnics, barbecues and other seasonal delights. But there’s more to the warm days ahead than fun and games. A recent University of Southern California study reveals that tempers may rise along with the temperature, with the rate of violent crime in Los Angeles climbing by an average of 5.7% on days when the mercury tops 85 degrees F.
The study analyzed the Los Angeles Police Department’s crime reports, arrest counts and service call records from 2010 to 2017, and found a particular increase in crime in higher-poverty neighborhoods and areas where most of the housing was constructed pre-1949. The researchers suggest that lower-income families are more likely to live in older residential stock where air conditioning is a rarity, making it more difficult to cope with the punishing heat. You can find out which city is the hottest in every state.
The increase in domestic crime and intimate partner violence in particular suggests to researchers that “the quality of living quarters matters.”
According to the same study, the heat appears to take a toll on police activity, too. L.A. cops pull over 6.6% fewer cars on average on days above 85 degrees F.
This isn’t the first time a correlation has been highlighted between heat and crime. A 2017 study of Philadelphia crime data showed that disorderly conduct and violent crimes were more frequent in warmer weather, and in 2014 the Bureau of Justice Statistics found a summer increase in aggravated assault rates, as well as rape and sexual assault.
Fleeing the heat is a summer strategy in L.A. — the city is among those where most employees take the most vacation days in the summer. But that’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Nor is installing or replacing air conditioning, a notoriously expensive project that also uses vast amounts of electricity, contributing to climate change.
The environmental impact of climate change and rising temperatures has been well documented, and in the years to come greater attention will no doubt be paid to the behavioral and sociological effects and possible solutions. Crime will be affected, too — and these are the cities where crime is already soaring in every state.