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      Temperature and Violent Crime in Dallas, Texas: Relationships and Implications of Climate Change

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          Abstract

          Introduction

          To investigate relationships between ambient temperatures and violent crimes to determine whether those relationships are consistent across different crime categories and whether they are best described as increasing linear functions, or as curvilinear functions that decrease beyond some temperature threshold. A secondary objective was to consider the implications of the observed relationships for injuries and deaths from violent crimes in the context of a warming climate. To address these questions, we examined the relationship between daily ambient temperatures and daily incidents of violent crime in Dallas, Texas from 1993–1999.

          Methods

          We analyzed the relationships between daily fluctuations in ambient temperature, other meteorological and temporal variables, and rates of daily violent crime using time series piece-wise regression and plots of daily data. Violent crimes, including aggravated assault, homicide, and sexual assault, were analyzed.

          Results

          We found that daily mean ambient temperature is related in a curvilinear fashion to daily rates of violent crime with a positive and increasing relationship between temperature and aggravated crime that moderates beyond temperatures of 80°F and then turns negative beyond 90°F.

          Conclusion

          While some have characterized the relationship between temperature and violent crime as a continually increasing linear function, leaving open the possibility that aggravated crime will increase in a warmer climate, we conclude that the relationship in Dallas is not linear, but moderates and turns negative at high ambient temperatures. We posit that higher temperatures may encourage people to seek shelter in cooler indoor spaces, and that street crime and other crimes of opportunity are subsequently decreased. This finding suggests that the higher ambient temperatures expected with climate change may result in marginal shifts in violent crime in the short term, but are not likely to be accompanied by markedly higher rates of violent crime and associated increased incidence of injury and death. Additional studies are indicated, across cities at varying latitudes that experience a range of daily ambient temperatures.

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          Most cited references 39

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          Hot Temperatures, Hostile Affect, Hostile Cognition, and Arousal: Tests of a General Model of Affective Aggression

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            Temperature and aggression: ubiquitous effects of heat on occurrence of human violence.

            Outlines 5 models of the temperature-aggression hypothesis: negative affect escape, simple negative affect, excitation transfer/misattribution, cognitive neoassociation, and physiological-thermoregulatory. Reviews relevant studies. Aggression measures include violent crime, spouse abuse, horn-honking, and delivery of electric shock. Analysis levels include geographic regional, seasonal, monthly, and daily variations in aggression, and concomitant temperature-aggression effects in field and laboratory settings. Field studies clearly show that heat increases aggression. Laboratory studies show inconsistencies, possibly because of several artifacts. Specific models have not been adequately tested, but the excitation transfer/misattribution and cognitive neoassociation approaches appear most promising, whereas the negative affect escape appears the least viable. Suggestions for future work are made.
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              Aggression and heat: the influence of ambient temperature, negative affect, and a cooling drink on physical aggression.

              Two experiments were conducted to examine the influence of ambient temperature upon physical aggression. In the first, male subjects received either a positive or negative evaluation from a confederate and were then provided with an opportunity to agress against this person by means of electric shock. On the basis of previous research, it was predicted that high ambient temperatures (92-95 degrees F) would facilitate aggression by those receiving positive evaluations but actually inhibit such behavior by those receiving negative assessments. Results confirmed both of these predictions and also indicated that more moderate but still uncomfortably warm temperatures (82-85 degrees F) produced similar effects. The second experiment employed procedures similar to the first and examined the suggestion that administration of a cooling drink would reduce the impact of high ambient temperatures upon overt aggression. This prediction, too, was confirmed. The possible mediating role of negative affect with respect to the influence of ambient temperature and other environmental factors upon aggression was discussed.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                West J Emerg Med
                West J Emerg Med
                wjem
                Western Journal of Emergency Medicine
                Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Irvine
                1936-900X
                1936-9018
                August 2012
                : 13
                : 3
                : 239-246
                Affiliations
                [*  ]United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC
                [†  ]Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine and Department of Environmental Health, Emory Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, Georgia
                Author notes
                Address of Correspondence: Janet L. Gamble, PhD, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., Mailcode 8601P, Washington, DC, 20460. Email: gamble.janet@ 123456epa.gov .
                Article
                wjem-13-03-05
                10.5811/westjem.2012.3.11746
                3415828
                22900121
                the authors
                Categories
                Violence
                Original Research

                Emergency medicine & Trauma

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