Does Violence Increase in the Darkness of Winter?

We are in the midst of December. Darkness comes early. Many people are a little nervous because they feel that the risk for assault goes up when it gets darker earlier. I hear that over the phone, in emails, and in classes.  But is that true?  Do rates of violence vary by season?

I looked to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Every year they survey a representative sampling of the American population for non-fatal victimizations. And they too also wondered if violent crime rates vary by season.

They looked at trends over a 16-year period. And they found that yes, some rates of assault do vary by season. We’ll break them down into categories.

Simple assault is the most common kind of assault, by far. The rate of simple assault is actually highest in the fall, disproportionately affecting teenagers as they head back to school. So the single biggest shift in the rates of violence seasonally is when kids go back to school in the fall and it affects them mostly. And that actually has nothing to do with it getting darker or lighter, but has more to do with where students are at that time.

Assault becomes aggravated when the victim experiences serious injury or a weapon is involved. The rate of aggravated assault is highest in the summer. So if that’s your concern, consider a class this winter or spring.

Rates for rape and sexual assault are also highest in the summer. Next highest was spring, and then lowest in fall and winter.

Robbery showed no seasonal variation.

The last category, domestic violence, is highest in the summer.

In summary: of the different kinds of violence looked at today, only one — simple assault — was highest in the fall and that affects a very specific segment of the population. The report also found that those seasonal variations were not large — no more than 12%.   In summary, yes rates of violence vary by season, but not by a lot.

You too can review the BJS findings here.

Stay safe, live life.