Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of July 31, 2006)

Summertime and the stealing's easy

  By John Martin

Along with rising gas prices and soaring temperatures, the summer months traditionally herald in another type of increase; a bump in crime rates.  Summer typically experiences higher than normal rates of B and E’s, public disturbances and other common offences.

The explanation is quite straightforward.  School is out and young offenders have an extra six hours a day to make our lives miserable.  The days are longer and the nights are warmer.  People spend a great deal more time socializing outdoors in unfamiliar settings.

Homeowners leave the old homestead vacant for long weekends or holiday getaways.  To keep the house cooler they leave windows and doors open.  People are in the front yard gardening while someone sneaks in the back door.  Garden sheds and out buildings are left unlocked.

Motorists drive to and park at the recreation centre or local mall and are likely to leave a window down so the car isn’t a sauna when they return.  Thievery thrives under such tempting conditions.

The opportunity to engage in summertime leisure activities also presents numerous criminal temptations.  Mountain bikes seem to be everywhere.  There’s no shortage of unguarded recreation equipment at the lakes and parks.

But the summer months fuel more than property crime.  Tempers are shorter in the heat.  Road rage jumps to a whole new level during road construction tie-ups and traffic jams; especially when one is without air conditioning.

Alcohol consumption increases during the heat and the summer is full of outdoor events where crowds of strangers come together; always a potential prescription for confrontation.  Numerous well-attended summer festivals and gatherings have been cancelled in recent years due to hooliganism and destruction of property.  It’s as though the rising temperatures provide a license to break things and cause trouble.  The cost of extra policing for these events is a burden on municipalities so many have been disbanded.

 However, there is no corresponding increase in police resources to match the annual summertime increase in illegal behavior.  Police, like most of us, prefer to take holidays during the summer months.  And police are going to be stretched dealing with the increase in motor vehicle offences that typically take place this time of year.  It’s difficult for law enforcement to keep up during the quiet times of year.  But once those long, warm days of summer kick in, it’s like rolling the proverbial boulder uphill.

Many years ago, Nat King Cole topped the charts with a song inviting us to “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  Those days of soda, and pretzels, and beer.” 

A bit sentimental perhaps.  But he got the “crazy days of summer” part right.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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