practice good summer safety this year!While most people know summer as the season for barbecues and beach parties, it’s primarily known by law enforcement as the season for crime. Unfortunately, this is a pattern that has held true for a long time across the country, and even in some other parts of the world. Keep reading to learn a bit about the connection between summer and crime, as well as what you can do to protect your identity, family and belongings this summer.

Why does crime peak in the summer?

Crime has (mostly) been in decline from year to year for some time now, but in any given year, it’s usually the warmest months that have the highest amount of crime for that year. Rates of nearly all types of crime tend to pick up in the spring, peak in the summer and decline in the fall. It’s a pattern that sociologists, criminologists and psychologists have studied and commented on for nearly a century. Although no one thinks that hot weather itself causes crime, the correlation, however hazy, remains. There are roughly two lines of thinking that somewhat explain this phenomenon:

  • Opportunities to commit crime increase in the summer. Various models of crime propose that crime is opportunistic, and thus occurs when a lot of factors simply line up perfectly. During summer, kids are home from school with nothing to do, families leave their homes unattended for long periods of time and people are more relaxed and careless. All of this likely provides greater chance for increased conflict and theft. Similarly, since many people travel, get seasonal jobs or move during the summer, scammers have more opportunity to target victims.
  • Hot weather, in general, seems to make people irritable. Psychologists have noted that under heat certain physiological changes occur – like elevation in heart rate and increased testosterone production – which can make people more prone to be bold or confrontational and less likely to think level-headedly.

What’s even more interesting is that the correlation between crime and heat apparently holds in locations with consistently warmer climates, as they tend to have higher levels of crime. It also apparently holds regardless of season, with high temperatures during any time of year generally being correlated with more crime; however, it seems that since summers usually tend to be the hottest months in most years, crime tends to be associated with summer.

What to have on your summer safety checklist

Despite what crime literature says, there’s no need to let the fear of crime ruin your summer. With just a handful of tips, you can reduce your likelihood of bumping into trouble, regardless of what your plans are.

When you’re out …

Whether you’re out on the town or visiting a far-off land, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind:

1. Make sure your vehicle is secure. First and foremost, if you take your car (or a rental car) anywhere, you should make sure that you park it in a well-trafficked parking lot that’s ideally staffed or attended to by someone. The parking lot should also have a lot of lighting so that you’re not walking back to your car in total darkness at night. If you go shopping, make sure not to leave your valuables and purchases where they’re visible, and always lock your car and roll up your windows when you leave it.

2. Mind your surroundings. While you may take time to thoroughly research any places you’ll be visiting or staying – be it for your vacation or for a day trip — you can never be too careful when you’re in a new area. If you’re visiting a new place, you’ll want to make sure that you’re mindful of any people or events going on around you. Don’t space out excessively, listen to music or text as you walk, as this could make you a target for pickpocketers and other opportunistic criminals looking to steal cell phones or wallets.

3. Protect yourself when making purchases. While part of traveling and being out is exploring new places, be careful of where you shop — especially if you’re in an area you’re not too familiar with. Small establishments can be fun to check out, but they may also be fronts for suspicious activities. When in doubt, stick to shopping at stores operated by well-known brands. That said, you should know that regardless of where you shop, you’ll want to be on guard for credit card skimmers or peeping eyes looking over your shoulder at the cash register. If you’re especially worried about payment card breaches or theft, you can always opt to use your credit card, as it offers the most fraud protection, or pay in cash, but keep in mind that while cash might be better for protecting your identity, it offers no protection (in terms of a refund) if you’re scammed by a merchant.

4. Monitor your statements. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Traveling is fun because of all the sights and people we meet, but these very same things can also increase our chances of fraudulent charges on our bank accounts or credit cards, as well as the potential for identity theft. When you return from a trip or day of shopping, you’ll want to make sure you pay close attention to your credit card statements and bank accounts, and if you spot any unfamiliar charges, be sure to report them immediately.

Keep your home secure by …

If you plan to travel for some time or just hope to keep your home secure this summer, you’ll want to make sure you keep the following tips in mind:

1. Avoiding oversharing on social media. When you’re planning a long (or short) trip, make sure you don’t post the trip details on social media, as it could be an open invitation for someone to burglarize your home. Similarly, you may want to refrain from posting while you’re away because posts or pictures, even those that are unrelated to your plans, could contain geolocation data if your privacy settings are not configured well, which is another invitation for someone to break into your home. If you do want to share photos or memories of your vacation, post them when you return home.

2. Hiding evidence of big purchases. If you’re planning on purchasing items with a big box this summer, like a big-screen plasma TV, make sure you don’t put the box by the curb. Should the box sit on the curb for more than a few hours, it’s an indication that there is at least one thing worth stealing inside your home. Additionally, some thieves might assume that your ability to afford one big box item is a sign of wealth, making your home an even more appealing target. As such, if you plan to make any big purchases, be sure you break down the boxes and place them in a closed recycling bin, or break down the boxes and put them in a large, black plastic bag before you put them out by the curb.

3. Making sure it’s not obvious you’re gone. Regardless of if you’re out and about or out of town for a couple weeks, you’ll want to make sure your house still looks like someone is home. This means your yard should be well-managed, free of tools and free of other signs that show general disorderliness. You may want to ask a family member or neighbor you trust to come by and turn on a light every night, or invest in timer for your lights that will turn them on and off automatically. In a thief’s mind, poorly kept yards and a lack of activity (or the appearance of activity) inside the house are a sign that no one’s home or that no one cares about the home. Tall grass and wild shrubbery aren’t just shaggy, but they also provide excellent coverage for burglars. Similarly, if you plan to be away for more than a few days, make sure you have someone stopping by to collect your mail or have it held at the post office so as not to tip off strangers that you aren’t around to bring it in.

4. Considering a home security system. If you’re going to be away from home for most of the summer or just want some added security at your home, one of the best ways to protect your property and valuables is with a home security system. These systems offer various features, like home automation and cellular control panels, that allow you to not only make it look like someone is home, but also monitor your home at all times. It might especially be useful to secure the areas of your home you feel might be used as break-in points, like sliding glass doors and windows.

5. Getting involved in your neighborhood watch. Neighborhood watches seem to have a moderate effect on deterring crime. As such, if you have such a program in your community, you should get involved and share tips like the ones on this list to ensure that all your neighbors can do their part to keep themselves and the community safe from crime. If your community has no such group, you can organize events like barbecues to bring everyone out to discuss creating one.

For more summer safety tips, as well as general safety tips both online and offline, keep reading our technology blog.