Criminal behavior changes with the temperature |

Criminal behavior changes with the temperature

During Alaskan winters, when the sun barely makes it over the horizon and light shrinks like plastic in the heat, crime changes.

Police respond to stolen vehicle calls after residents find their cars missing from the driveways where they were left to warm up. Domestic violence and assault cases also increase, said Matt Fraize, an officer with the Anchorage Police Department.

“More people are forced to be inside,” Fraize said. “So you would see more people inside a residence more than usual.”

Similar to Alaska, crime at South Lake Tahoe varies with the seasons.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department has kept electronic statistics on the number of and composition of calls dispatch has received since March 2000 when its computer system could handle the workload.

Summer has proven a favorite time for crime, especially July, with 643 incidents made into reports in 2002 while there were 618 in 2001 and 638 in 2000.

In comparison, the winter months had a moderate amount of wrongdoing. In 2001, when crime spiked in July, it fell dramatically until it rose in December to 490. Then the year started about how it ended with 470 reports in January, but climbed in February to 609.

Sgt. Alex Schumacher, an officer with the South Lake department since 1978, said he has noticed more crime now throughout the year compared to when he began his beat.

More people bring an increased chance for crime and is possibly the reason why numbers fluctuate during the seasons, Schumacher said.

One crime that police receive more calls on during the winter months is child abuse. Based on 2001 numbers, there were more than 20 calls of suspected child abuse in January, February and December. This year, there were more than 20 child abuse calls in January, February, June and August.

“Some people tend to get cooped up a little bit more,” Schumacher said. “It produces a little more stress for us.”

There was an average of 21 calls to dispatch in 2001 for drunken driving from January through March. It was roughly the same from July through October.

Drunk in public calls for the same year topped 30 in the months of January, May, July, August, October and December.

During this month there have been six suicide calls that were either unfounded or cleared. There was one report of a teenage girl who slit her wrists. But based on 2002 numbers, there is no indication suicide attempts or successes happen more in winter.

El Dorado County sheriff’s Detective Pat Tener said weather does have a direct impact on crime and echoed similar sentiments as Fraize and Schumacher.

“The winter creates more inside time for the families and more boredom, I guess,” Tener said. “There is more closeness with the family and sometimes that’s not good. But with the population increase comes everything that follows. Come springtime when the snow goes away, we’re back in another lull.”

— Contact William Ferchland at

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