Why is there a Crime Spike in the Summer?

Humans are pattern-seeking animals. We look up in the sky at night and see shapes and images. We’ve discovered two spoons up there!

Some of these patterns are about wanting to see something. Others, like the summer crime spike, are rooted in overlapping sound causes. The Bureau of Justice statistics has noted this trend for years.

We’ve covered some newer pattern-seeking studies before. The important thing to note about these studies is that they show overall trends. They help law enforcement plan for and react to possible problems.

Questions such as, “Have crime rates increased?” require more than one answer. You need to understand how the data is pulled and how the agencies interpret it. Let’s go through these steps.

Crime Spike Defined

To come to the conclusion that a spike in crime occurs, it is best to know the difference between a rise and a spike.

A rise in crime comes from a general trend of more crime in an area and doesn’t necessarily have a proximal cause.

A spike happens suddenly and then also fades just as suddenly. The smaller window and larger impact of a spike come from more definitive factors.

A common statement in statistics is correlation is not causation. This means that a pattern doesn’t always reflect another pattern.

A famous example is that ice cream sales rise at the same time and with the same magnitude as crime in summer. it is foolish to think that crime causes ice cream sales or ice cream sales cause crime.

Keep this distinction of cause and effect in mind.

Also keep in mind that not all crime goes up during the summer crime spike. Violent and property crime are the major categories that experience the effect. Auto theft and robbery are exceptions which provide an interesting insight into the pattern.

Why Summer?

Summer offers unique opportunities and conditions over other seasons. Each of these conditions adds factors to the recorded crime rates rising. These conditions can also piggy-back on each other, creating a larger overall impact.


The summer season is the hottest time of the year. Discomfort in the heat produces aggressive behavior outright. Even when it doesn’t provoke it adds to conditions that lead people to act out.


Summer is a time when people take vacations and spend more time outdoors doing activities. These activities put more people into contact with each other than happens in other seasons. These activities also emphasize economic disparities between groups.

Alcohol Consumption

Summer heat dehydrates more quickly. Many activities that people engage in outdoors leads to extra thirst. Since summer is also the time of vacations and relaxing, alcohol consumption rises.

Lax Home Security

People leave their doors and windows open at night to let in cooler air. This provides access for criminals that wouldn’t exist at other times. People also spend more time out of the home doing recreational activities, leaving empty houses.

Risk Seeking

People take on more risk-taking behaviors in summer. Gone is the caution is of slippery winter ice or the slick rain-soaked streets of spring. Stunts and “I’m on vacation” mentalities lead to more injuries.

People injured by a stunt should seek a personal injury lawyer. Instead, they often retaliate leading to an increase in assaults and drunk and disorderly arrests.

End of School

With students of all ages out for the summer, there is less structure.

Grade school students hit the streets and parks looking for things to do, creating targets for theft. Students also contribute heavily to graffiti and vandalism throughout the summer months.

College students seek out jobs, creating an influx of cash to some areas. Depending on the area, this can fuel vice markets or create theft targets.

Inequality Exposure

All of the above factors heighten evidence of inequality. The well-to-do families that go on lavish vacations leave homes unattended. They also spend and travel in areas they are unfamiliar with.

After a hard year of work, people tend to flaunt success and wealth in the form of gadgets and possessions. At the same time, they frequently leave these newly purchased objects unattended while engaging in outdoor activities.

Those that can’t afford to take a holiday come into contact with those that do. This combination of resentment and opportunity make up a lot of the factors for the violent crime increase.

Population Influx

Municipalities deploy their law enforcement resources based on patterns of need. In the summer, the influx of people into smaller communities and resort towns stretch resources.

The lack of resources creates more opportunity for crimes to both occur and to go undeterred.

Even when resources are deployed to compensate for the influx, the officers themselves have to work in warmer conditions which contributes to difficulties.

Officers contribute to and live within their communities. This has been shown to reduce shooting incidents, in particular.

The extra security and police added for busy seasons are unattached people lacking those connections. They often don’t command the same respect as other uniformed officers. They are also often given duties that favor protection of a property or set of visitors over locals.


The final factor is the tourists themselves. Traveling to another city, another state, or another country includes new rules.

Tourists often don’t know local rules and will break laws that they don’t understand. While some tourism boards work to excuse these acts, others crack down on them.

Misunderstandings over policy and local customs can also lead to violent incidents.


With so many factors that contribute to the crime spike, you can see why it happens and why combating it is difficult.

Each of the causes needs its own solution and the sheer bulk of problems means a large dedication of resources to make a dent. These solutions also need to be deployed unilaterally and slowly to determine their effect.

Stay Informed

KNowledge remains a powerful tool in making plans and facing the world. Hopefully, this information will give you more than some crime spike trivia to share with friends.

Whether you run a business or work for one, keeping mindful of crime helps you out. Business, in particular, are affected by less concrete crime.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.