CRIME
02/05/2014 02:49 pm ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

It Turns Out, Cold Weather Might Actually Not Deter Criminals After All (INFOGRAPHIC)

The idea that cold weather climates help suppress crime rates has never been scientifically proven, but it seems to make sense.

For one, it totally explains Canada. But it's also a logical-sounding theory to anyone who has already had enough of winter. Who would rob a liquor store, let alone shovel the driveway, during a blizzard or cold snap?

Not so fast, says the Detroit Police Department, which recently compared data from the past 13 Januarys to see if the city's current drop in criminal homicides could be attributed to the snowy weather.

What they found casts some shade on the theory that cold weather deters crime. These graphs tell the story.

Statistics from the past 13 years show many instances where high snow and low temperatures didn't deter homicides in Detroit. In January 2005, 26.9 inches of snow fell in the Motor City, second only to 2014. Yet the city recorded 40 criminal homicides that month -- the most January killings in 13 years.

In January 2009, when the average temperature was a bone-chilling 9.5 degrees, 34 people were murdered. Even when temperatures doubled the next year, in 2010, the number of murders decreased.

Instead, DPD said, credit for 2014's decrease in criminal homicides should be directed toward the city's police officers.

"This study should put to rest the myth that criminals stay inside during cold weather," read a press release from the city.

But the department didn't publish other crime statistics, like vandalism, burglary or sexual assault, to see if those crimes were impacted at all by winter weather. A week-long period with no homicides in New York last January was credited, in part, to temperatures at or below freezing for most days in the city.

"The best cop I met was a female and her name was Mother Nature," NYPD Det. Sgt. Joseph Giacalone told Newsday. "The bad weather, the cold weather -- there are less people out on the streets so there is less chance of victimization."

A recent Scientific American article notes that linking chilly weather with violent crime is complex and controversial. A Swiss-led group who studied tree-ring data and Central European weather patterns found "uncovered cold periods that overlapped with raucous historical events," the magazine reported. Although Scientific American said real-world studies point to decreased numbers of assaults during the winter months, December and January often show crime spikes that are attributed to the holiday season.

Do you think cold weather deters crime?

CONVERSATIONS