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Climate change and crime: monthly temperature and precipitation anomalies and crime rates in St. Louis, MO 1990–2009

Abstract

This study provides insights on how climate change may already be impacting crime rates. Based on analysis of 20 years of monthly data from St. Louis, MO, this study finds that most major crime types are likely to be impacted by rising temperatures. Whereas previous studies on the impact of climate change have used annual data, the current study suggests that shorter time periods provide a more accurate assessment once seasonality effects are accounted for. What is more this study incorporates not just temperature data, but also precipitation data. Results indicate that the relation between climate change and crime is significant for most crime categories. While the strength of the relationship between temperature anomalies and crime may appear relatively mild, considering potential future warming, climate change may come to have a significant impact on crime rates. Theory and policy implications are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Because of long-term consistency in measurement the closest weather station is St. Louis Lambert Airport, located about 10 miles from the city of St. Louis. Other climatic data were examined as well, including wind speed, relative humidity (dew point), station pressure, and visibility. None of these variables were significant and are thus excluded from the final model.

  2. 2.

    The period 1971–2000 is the 30 year average period used by the National Weather Service to compare the values for 1990–2009.

  3. 3.

    Precipitation includes the amounts of snow, sleet, hail, and rain measured in liquid form.

  4. 4.

    Collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010) Consumer Price Index, Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. city average. ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt. Accessed, Sept 25th 2010.

  5. 5.

    Numbers are calculated using 2009 estimated population of 305,000,000. Numbers from Rotton and Cohn [35] are based on rates per 100,000. Estimates from current study are based on percent increase reported in the first column of Table 3 and multiplied by the average number of crimes in the US between 1990 and 2009.

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Mares, D. Climate change and crime: monthly temperature and precipitation anomalies and crime rates in St. Louis, MO 1990–2009. Crime Law Soc Change 59, 185–208 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-013-9411-8

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Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Temperature Anomaly
  • Crime Rate
  • Violent Crime
  • Precipitation Anomaly