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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Does snow influence crime?

As I write this I am looking out onto a winter wonderland. There is a thick carpet of snow over everything. Valiant attempts have been made to clear the snow off the road to allow vehicles up the hill but the snow is winning the battle.

I hear on the news that police in affected areas are trying to hire 4x4 vehicles and are only attending life and death type emergencies.

The question is does snow influence crime. Logically it must do, peoples' behaviour changes, they stay at home. It seems though that not all of London is equally affected. Fabian has reported that London this morning was a ghost town, not because it was white with snow but because there was hardly anyone around.

There is an interesting paper in the September 2009 issue of the academic journal Environment and Planning B entitled "The influence of weather on local geographical patterns of police calls for service." This did not specifically investigate the influence of snow but does show evidence of that high temperatures increasing violent crime and high temperatures and humidity affecting the geography of disorder.

The problem with this type of study is firstly obtaining detailed temporal and geographical details of the weather and secondly determining the extent of geographical and temporal influence of the weather. For instance, as we have seen, snow influences areas where it has not snowed, so comparing the part of London where it has snowed to where it has not snowed will give only a partial answer. Equally the affect of snow lasts till it melts rather than just when it falls.

It would interesting to do a brief analysis on these few days to see how crime/police incident patterns change. Hopefully this will not be considered pointless research like that conducted on penguins presumably in the snow!

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