November has brought plenty of changes here in Minnesota. We turned the clocks back to get an extra hour of light in the morning, and Mother Nature dropped a few inches of snow on our heads. So while you may be better able to see the snow on your car windshield when you scrap your car off in the morning before heading to work, today we want to focus on how daylight savings time impacts crime rates.
A study out of the University of Virginia found that daylight savings time has a large impact on the number and types of crimes committed. As you might guess, the earlier it gets dark, the more crimes occur. This happens for three main reasons:
- It gets dark earlier.
- It stays dark longer.
- Less witnesses are outside due to decreasing temperatures.
The cover of darkness and the fact that their are less potential witnesses outside to observe crime are prime reasons why criminal activity increases in the late fall and winter.
What Crimes Increase?
Not all crimes increase in the cold months. For example, disorderly conduct and DUIs tend to drop as people aren’t typically outside as much in the cold winter months. The crime that increases the most is robbery.
Jennifer Doleac, co-author of the study, said robberies increase 7 percent overall, and 27 percent during the sunset hour. She says the cover of darkness provides thieves and other criminals with the discretion they need, and discussed the drop in crime when we turn the clocks forward in the spring.
“We find an increase in light during the hour of sunset impacts a number of socially damaging crimes, including robbery, murder, and rape, with a total estimate social cost avoidance of over $550 million per year,” Doleac wrote. “We also find suggestive evidence that much of the avoided crime comes through criminal deterrence, which means not only fewer victims but also a lesser need for the expensive and potentially damaging incarceration process.”
Nicholas Sanders, an economics professor at the University of Virginia who co-authored the study with Doleac, added that the increase in crime in the fall is most noticeable during the hour of sunset.
“The majority of those effects are really concentrated in the hour of sunset which is to say 6, 7 o’clock in most areas, the hour that sees the biggest change in the amount of light that’s present is the hour that sees the largest change in crime,” said Sanders.
However, he says the morning hours are a different story.
“In the morning the criminals still haven’t had their coffee, they haven’t gotten up and gotten their day started.”
This blog isn’t meant to keep you indoors every night after 5pm, but it should serve as a warning to stay alert to suspicious activity. Always lock your car doors if parking on the street, and make sure other areas, like garages and storage sheds are also secured once night falls.
Related source: Stanford.edu