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Tomorrow's Nor'easter: Do Blizzards Deter Criminal Activity?

With the big winter storm about to hit, most of us are making sure we have enough food, water, batteries, and worried about defending our parking spaces. Yet there may be a bright side to the coming blizzard. Some evidence suggests that crime decreases during stormy weather, as both citizens and criminals decide to stay home. 

The New England Patriots will be free from worry that the storm will cancel their flights, as they are scheduled to leave before the storm hits. Upon landing in Phoenix, Arizona, the team should be greeted by temperatures in the mid-60s. But for the rest of local residents, Governor Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency, including a travel ban. Nonessential motor vehicles are to be off the road starting midnight. Will the storm also result in keeping criminals off the streets?

In 2010, a blizzard was credited for the sharp decrease in criminal activity. Paul Browne, A spokesperson for the NYPD said they were not surprised by the slow crime week, "the snow kept the bad guys on ice." Police statistics showed that between December 27 and January 2nd, major felony crimes in seven categories fell in New York, with an 80% decrease in reported rapes. Criminals may have stayed off the streets, but the police did not. The NYPD was able to issue 11,706 parking tickets during the week.

While the Huffington Post points out it has not been scientifically proven that cold weather reduces crime, it would seem to make sense. An infographic analysis of Detroit's homicide rates show no clear relationship between snowfall or average temperature, and the number of homicides. In 2014, the Detroit Police Department even issued a press release to "put to rest the myth that criminals stay inside during cold weather."

However, the year before, New York had a full week-long period with no homicides during a freezing week in January. One detective with the police department attributed the decrease in crime to the cold. According to Detective Sergeant Joseph Giacalone, the best cop he met was Mother Nature. With cold and bad weather, "there are less people on the street so there is less chance of victimization." Though Scientific American finds the issue is not so clear, and involves a much more complex analysis.

Even police in the more temperate South Carolina may have noticed a weather pattern. Last year, during winter storm Pax, police received fewer criminal complaints. During those three days, Chester County sheriffs reported no inmates were even booked into the county jail. However, after the storm let up, criminal activity rose with the temperature.

Similarly, in Albany last year, police reported that there was a decrease in " incidents" related to chilling weather. Police indicated the snow and icy conditions, while leading to an increase in auto accidents, act as a deterrent to crime. David Sparks, a Crime Analyst with the police department said, "incidents are way down and there is a direct correlation with the weather. Every year when we have cold snaps, we benefit with a decrease in incidents and calls for service.

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