As weather changes so does local crime, police chiefs say


Police in Hillsboro and Marion may not have scientific evidence proving there?s a correlation between weather and crime, but they say the connection is hard to ignore.

Marion Police Chief Josh Whitwell said he isn?t a human behavioral specialist, but in his law-enforcement experience he has noticed trends in criminal activity during certain times of the year.

?In my opinion,? he said, ?it seems weather change tends to affect people sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.?

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning agreed.

?Traditionally, crime goes up in the summer because tempers can flair,? Kinning said. ?We see a lot more domestic-type incidents than at other times of the year.?

Whitwell said in the summer, burglaries are up, but in the winter, most crimes are down.

Kinning said one reason crime goes down in the winter is because of the colder temperatures?but too much ?together time? creates its own set of problems.

?People can become easily agitated during extreme hot or cold temperatures,? he said.

Winter woes

Whitwell agreed with Kinning, noting that domestic violence was up in December.

?We worked a lot more cases last month (in Marion),? he said. ?The holidays can bring added stress with people being cooped up and can?t get outside.

?We also just went through a rash of burglaries,? he said.

Whitwell said car stereos and other valuables were taken in mid- to late December, but he chalked the thefts up to people needing extra money during the holiday season.

?Stress of the holidays, family issues or loss of a loved can cause tension, and tension doesn?t mesh well when there?s no way to relieve it,? Whitwell said.

It helps, he said, when spring arrives and people can get out and work in their yard or garden to relieve anxiety.

Even in the milder seasons of fall and spring, Whitwell said, he sees an increase in the number of thefts and vehicle accidents.

?Most of the time, if you are a thief or in that line of work, the colder weather in the winter time is a bit more prohibited (for criminal behavior),? Whitwell said.

Kinning and Whitwell agree some crimes are more prevalent during the days and nights of summer.

?I firmly believe we have more crime in the summer months,? Kinning said. But, he added, when the temperatures hit certain levels, violent crime rates drop.

The most obvious reason, he said, is when the heat is unbearable, people withdraw rather than fight.

Summer crimes

Whitwell said one possible explanation for higher crime rates in the summer is because people stay out later.

?We seem more traffic late at night,? he said.

Even though younger people have a midnight curfew, Whit?well said, they try to be flexible.

?We aren?t strict about the curfew, but if kids are still out after 1 a.m., we will send them home,? he said.

Some crimes occur regardless of changes in the weather, Kinning said. He cited rape as having no set pattern.

?We live in a safe place, but as with any small town, we have our share of growing pains,? Kinning said.

No specific patterns

Driving under the influence is another offense that doesn?t seem to follow any specific weather pattern, but the holidays and alcohol consumption can be a bad mix.

?We don?t get too many DUIs in town,? Whitwell said, ?because it is hard to get probable cause.?

People lead sedentary lives during the holidays, he said, watching football and staying inside, which affects the body more.

?From my personal experience,? Whitwell said, ?I see more DUIs in the winter time.?

When it comes to lunar activity, Kinning and Whitwell both said they think there is something to a full moon and incidents of criminal behavior.

?Sometimes it gets a little crazy,? Whitwell said. ?It?s lighter outside so people can see more, running around at night and acting a little more foolish.?

Whitwell said it seems like when there is a full moon out, a few more things happen.

The recent eclipse was an example of lunar activity and how it affected people?s behavior.

Whitwell said his office was busier than normal with burglaries and thefts.

Although Whitwell said he hasn?t found time to do any case studies about how weather affects people negatively, but he did say his officers get busier when the seasons change.

Preventive measures

If there is any truth to the correlation, both Kinning and Whitwell said people can do things to protect themselves against crime.

One proactive way residents can protect themselves against burglaries in the summer is to let the police department know they will be out of town.

?We have a vacation watch that can be downloaded (from the Marion Police Department website),? Whitwell said. ?We won?t actually go and check the doors or the thermostat, but we send patrols by.?

The ?Home Security Check Request Form? alerts Marion police to pay particular attention to someone?s home while they are on vacation.

Some questions on the form ask whether pets will be in the house, who has permission to go inside and if lights will be left on.

?We will keep an eye on the house and if something looks different (then what was submitted on the form) we will investigate more,? Whitwell said.?

Kinning said Hillsboro also has a House Watch Program.

For more information about house watch programs or other ways to protect yourself or family against crimes, call the Hillsboro Police Department at 620-947-3440 or stop by the office at 414 N. Ash St., Hillsboro.

Marion residents can call the Marion Police Department at 620-382-2651 or stop by their office at 112 N. Fifth St.

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