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Study: Warmer Temps Multiply Threat of Higher Crime Rates

A new study says higher temperatures across the nation due to climate change could be a threat multiplier when it comes to increased violent crime. (Free-photos/Pixabay)
A new study says higher temperatures across the nation due to climate change could be a threat multiplier when it comes to increased violent crime. (Free-photos/Pixabay)
January 30, 2020

LAS VEGAS -- Winters are getting warmer, and according to a new study the temperature boost could increase interactions among people, leading to more violent encounters.

Depending on how quickly temperatures rise due to climate change, a University of Colorado study shows the United States could see 2 million to 3 million more violent crimes between now and the end of the century than there would be in a non-warming world.

Lead researcher Ryan Harp at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU-Boulder, says FBI crime statistics and temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were combined to understand the connection between warming and crime rates.

"The vast majority of what goes into that violent crime bucket ends up being aggravated assault, and so that is really the main outcome that's underlying this relationship," he states.

Harp and his colleagues assumed urban areas would be most affected by increased crime related to spiking temperatures, but notes the potential rise was evenly distributed between rural and urban areas.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, looked at data for 16,000 U.S. cities.

Many people associate irritability with hot weather, but the study showed the increased crime rate will likely occur in winter months, when warming temperatures allow people to be outdoors.

Harp says that sets the stage for more violent crimes such as assault and robbery, because better weather creates more opportunities for interactions among people.

"If you have a really pleasant week, then more people are going to be leaving their home -- going out to eat, going for walks, whatever it might be -- you're just increasing the chances that those two things are going to come together," he explains.

The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that without global action to reduce carbon emissions, Las Vegas will probably experience 96 days of heat above 100 degrees by the end of the century, including 60 days over 105 degrees and seven "off the chart" days that would break the current heat index.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NV