Each year about this time, there is speculation that extremely cold weather is a deterrent to crime. Recent activity in Evanston tends to support that theory.

For the record, the daily crime bulletin issued yesterday, that covered the three-day New Years holiday weekend, contained only six items. .And today, the Evanston Police Department did not even bother to issue one, for a lack of incidents to report.

A similar bulletin covering a weekend in the summertime would typically contain 40 or more entries.

Perry Polinski, communications coordinator for the Evanston Police Department, said he delved into the records for the period from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 and noted that last year, when the temperatures were somewhat higher than this year, there were 323 calls for service to the department, compared with only 226 this year.

“Of course, it’s hard to tell if the weather was the principal cause for the decline,” he said.

Local police contend that the reason most on-street car burglaries involve cars that are unlocked is because small groups of thieves typically walk down the street in the middle of the night and try every car door they encounter.

As they find an unlocked vehicle, they then search the interior for cell phones, loose coins, stereo equipment, and the like, police say.

Well who, in their right mind, would have been inclined to do that in temperatures that flirted with zero degrees over last weekend?

Also, police say, when responding to a burglar-alarm call, the cops look for footprints in the snow to provide evidence of a home breakin.

An economist for a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., Matthew Ranson, of Abt Associates,examined crime data across the country and found “a very strong historical relationship between temperature and crime.”

One exception, he found, was car theft, which tended to jump when temperatures dropped below 10 degrees. That might be explained, he said, by owners leaving their vehicles running with the heat on.

Former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy, however, cautioned against applying any hard-and-fast rules. He was quoted in a news report as saying that he’s seen robbery sprees during downpours, shooting spikes during blizzards, and crime lulls on sunny, pleasant days.

“The weather is an influence on crime,” McCarthy was quoted as saying. “But it doesn’t cause, nor does it prevent, crime.”

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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