Cold weather impacts crime rates, policing

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Matt Gardner
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Much of the city’s crime tends to move indoors during the frigid winter months, according to a Prince Albert police representative.

Cold weather during the winter months has varying impacts on crime rates in the city, according to a Prince Albert police representative.

Sgt. Curtis Halcro noted that changing behaviour patterns associated with cold temperatures cause the rates of certain crimes to increase and others to decrease.

Less foot traffic means that wilful damage and thefts from vehicles tend to slow down, while domestic violence and family disputes pick up.

“When people are shut in together in cold weather, people tend to get on each other’s nerves, I guess you might say,” Halcro said.

Conversely, thefts of vehicles themselves can increase as more residents turn their cars on and leave the keys in the ignition while waiting for the cars to heat up.

“When people are warming up vehicles, sometimes their vehicle is not there when they come back out,” Halcro said.

Even if residents were able to lock their car doors while waiting for the vehicle to warm, Halcro noted that potential thieves are not above breaking open a window and driving the car away.

He suggested the use of command starts as a safer alternative for heating up one’s vehicle.

“I have one in my truck and I hit the button from inside my house -- it starts up,” Halcro said.

“Even if somebody was to (break in), you can’t drive the vehicle away with the command start. As soon as you touch the brake pedal, the motor shuts off without the key in the ignition.”

For the police themselves, overall day-to-day operations in winter differ little from the summer months.

While equipment such as police cars are still subject to the elements, officers remain on duty 24/7, responding to calls as needed and keeping an eye out for traffic offenses or impaired drivers.

Throughout the winter, patrol officers will intervene if they see anyone who appears at risk of freezing.

A couple of days of warm weather isn’t going to make a huge big difference to us. Sgt. Curtis Halcro

“We first of all stop and check and see where they’re going and if they’re able to look after themselves, if they’re not overly intoxicated -- or we’ll oftentimes take them to where they’re going to get them out of the elements,” Halcro said.

In such cases, police will often work with Mobile Crisis and other city agencies who may be able to assist.

Though public awareness of freezing deaths may have increased following the four fatalities in the city last winter, the effects on police conduct were minimal.

“I wouldn’t say it’s changed anything,” Halcro said. “It’s definitely made everybody more aware, I hope … If you see somebody that you think is in distress, let’s notify the authorities and get them checked out.

“If there’s anything we can take away from that, I think the whole city hopefully now is a little more aware and conscious of those types of things.”

While Saskatchewan is renowned for its brutally cold winters, recent days saw temperatures in Prince Albert hover around the zero-degrees mark.

Halcro identified crimes of opportunity such as thefts from vehicles as the most likely offenses to be affected by warmer weather, but added that short-term changes have little effect on overall trends.

“A couple of days of warm weather isn’t going to make a huge big difference to us,” he said.

“It’s more in the summer months -- there’s more people out all hours of the night and day, the kids are out of school and looking for something to get into oftentimes. It’s more of a seasonal thing, I would say.”

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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