Study Finds That Warm Weather Brings out Violent Criminals

By Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
August 15, 2014; 9:00 AM ET
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Rapes, sexual assaults and domestic violence occur more often during the summer in the United States than any other time of the year, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice study.

The report, "Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends," examined patterns in violent and household property victimization in the U.S. from 1993 to 2010.

While the overall victimization rate for sexual crimes fell between 1993 and 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that winter rates of rape and sexual assault were about 9 percent lower on average than summer rates.

Fall rates were about 10 percent lower than summer rates.

"Good weather means people are out and about. It also means there are more opportunities for crimes. During cold weather, people tend to stay inside," Police Chief Ron Heller of the Logan Township Police Department outside Altoona, Pennsylvania, said.

One out of every six American women, or 17.7 million, has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to statistics provided by RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Heller's department investigates mostly two kinds of sexual crimes: ones involving alcohol at bars and others that occur in public places such as parks or parking lots.

Peppah, a pet chiquawa, wears a doggie coat while being carried by her owner to their apartment, inside a shelter for victims of domestic violence, Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in New York. The shelter is the city's first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter, one in a fast-growing number of similar sanctuaries around the country that reflect growing awareness that animals can be both victims of family violence and key factors in their owners' willingness to flee. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Situational awareness goes a long way to protect a person from being a sexual assault victim, Heller said.

"People, especially women, need to be aware of their surroundings in order to avoid being victimized," he said.

Many sexual crimes are under-reported, but it shouldn't be that way, Heller said.

"Women may be embarrassed or think they won't be believed," he said.

The study found that the summertime is the time when more domestic violence occurs in the United States.

Compared to summer, domestic violence was about 12 percent lower in the winter, 6 percent lower in the spring and 9 percent lower in the fall.

Domestic violence victims need to call the police immediately, Heller said.

"Assault, even by a family member, is a crime," he said.

Victims should leave their residence at the first opportunity and seek help and medical attention, if necessary, Heller said.

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One in every four U.S. women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of domestic physical assault each year, the coalition said.

AccuWeather forensic meteorologists have assisted law enforcement and attorneys in violent crime cases where weather may have been a factor.

AccuWeather was called to help in at least three homicide cases that occurred in the fall and winter, where dew and snow, respectively, were issues in the investigations, Senior Meteorologist Steve Wistar said.

"On occasion we can check a witness' story for accuracy if weather played a role," Wistar said.

AccuWeather also helped in a domestic civil case in which a woman kicked her husband out of the house and then threw all his possessions out in the yard, Wistar said.

"When he came to retrieve them a few days later, they were water damaged," Wistar said. "She said it had rained, too bad for him, but his attorney contacted us and asked if it actually had. Turns out it didn't rain at all during those few days, and the woman was forced to admit that she had taken out the garden hose at night and ‘watered' all his clothes, computer equipment and other belongings."

Fifteen percent of men are domestic violence victims, the national coalition said.

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