In This Article Seasonality and Crime

  • Introduction
  • “Classical” Works on the Relationship between Season, Temperature, and Crime
  • Holidays and Crime
  • Defining and Studying Seasonal Patterns in Crime
  • Implications and Relevance to Forecasting Crime

Criminology Seasonality and Crime
by
Kristin Carbone-Lopez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0130

Introduction

There is a long history within criminology and related disciplines (such as psychology and psychiatry) of searching for patterns in crime and associating crime rates with environmental factors. Listed here are references focusing primarily on the seasonal fluctuations or patterns in crime, rather than the much broader literature on the relationship between temperature and other environmental factors and aggression. However, the two areas often overlap, and scholars attempt to describe seasonal trends while simultaneously adjusting for other environmental factors; separate sections address those references that, while they investigate seasonal patterns, focus primarily on temperature, environment, and social interactions during specific times of the year. Adolphe Quetelet was one of the first scholars to suggest that there was a statistical relationship between seasons of the year and crime rates. Similarly, in Cesare Lombroso’s 1911 book Crime: Its Causes and Remedies on the causes of and remedies for crime, the first chapter focuses on “meteorological and climactic influences on crime.” Since these early observations, scholars have further refined their definition of seasonality and have continued in their attempts to document significant seasonal oscillations in crime—and particularly summer peaks in crime. Using crime statistics from the United States and elsewhere, researchers have described seasonal trends in violent crime as well as in specific crime types such as aggravated assault and rape. Based on these studies, therefore, a number of reviews of the literature on seasons and crime have concluded that there is a great deal of support for the idea that crime, particularly crime against persons, peaks in summer. Yet work in this area continues to expand and develop and has practical implications for law enforcement and crime forecasting.

“Classical” Works on the Relationship between Season, Temperature, and Crime

Some of the earliest scholars in our discipline sought to systematically describe crime in order to suggest theories for its causation. Quetelet 1911 (first published in 1831) draws attention to seasonal patterns in crime. A later book, Quetelet 1968 (first published in 1842), describes a “thermic law” of crime wherein crimes against persons peak during summer months. Lombroso 1911 suggests a similar pattern, though the author also focused on the influence of climate and noted differences in criminal tendencies depending upon region.

  • Lombroso, Cesare. 1911. Translated by Henry P. Horton. Crime: Its causes and remedies. Boston: Little, Brown.

    E-mail Citation »

    Using data on crime and political violence from all over Europe, the “father of criminology” also describes the impact of season and climate on crime in the first chapter of his treatise on crime and its causes. Violent crimes, such as rape, most often take place in summer months. Originally published in 1899.

  • Quetelet, Adolphe. 1911. Translated by Sawyer F. Sylvester. Research on the propensity for crime at different ages. Cincinnati: Anderson.

    E-mail Citation »

    One of the first scholars in this discipline to systematically examine crime statistics, Quetelet includes a chapter devoted to the influence of the seasons on the propensity for crime. Using data on property and violent crimes in France, he demonstrates that while violent crime peaks in the summer and is at its minimum in the winter season, the opposite pattern is seen for property crime. First published in 1831.

  • Quetelet, Adolphe. 1968. Translated by R. Knox. A treatise on man and the development of his faculties. New York: Burt Franklin.

    E-mail Citation »

    In his comprehensive treatise on factors related to crime, Quetelet here notes as well that the “seasons have a marked influence on all the relations of man; they operate on his physical as well as his moral nature” (p. 20). In particular, he notes that crimes against persons are highest during summer months. First published in 1842.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Article

Up

Down