Cold cases? A look at winter crime in South Bend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It has been one of the most brutal winters in recent memory.

The bitter cold and persistent snow have been hard on almost everyone in Michiana.

However, is there a silver lining? This fuels the old debate about whether cold weather helps put a lid on crime.

The simple answer is yes and no. There has not been a lot of extensive research on the subject.

However, area police say the cold weather does have a cooling effect on some types of crimes, but often leads to a rise in other types of crime.

Do not necessarily count the South Bend Police Department among those longing for the warm sultry nights of summer.

Lt. Cindy Kilgore, from Michiana Crime Stoppers, says, “By and large, you see a lot more crime in the warmer months? Definitely, definitely. People are out, it's hotter, people get more agitated for other reasons and also, you see a lot of shootings on the street from people driving by because they can expect to see the person they're looking for out in the street more often.

Look at the trend starting last September.

The average temperature was 66 degrees and there were 163 reported crimes.

October, the average temperature was 53 degrees and there were 134 police reports filed.

November, average temperature was 38 and had 121 crimes.

December, average temperature was 26 and there were 104 crimes

January 2014, the fourth coldest on record, the average temperature was 16 degrees, and 95 crimes were reported.

While police respond to fewer crimes in the winter months, the crime they do see often goes from the streets to indoors.

Cabin fever is taking a dangerous turn.

Lt. Kilgore says, “The more people are in the home together, the more chances there are for friction, and sometimes worse than friction; friction, conflict that ends up rising to a criminal level like domestic abuse or sex offense within the home.”

The sexual crimes are particularly troubling for Kilgore who worked as a sex offense investigator for more than a decade.

She says children who are home bound for extended periods, are most often the victims.

She says, “It's potentially dangerous with all these snow days the kids have had and being home more often… with either a family member or somebody, you know, mom's boyfriend or whomever. Somebody coming into the home and taking advantage of an opportunity.”

While every winter has its share of shootings, robberies and assaults, Kilgore says, so far, this winter with its extremes in both temperatures and snowfall, may prove that the more bitter the winter, the better.

She says, “Actually, our detective chief at South Bend Police was just recently telling me he saw, especially after the travel advisories where people were warned to stay off the street, or even face a penalty if they did, there actually is a decrease in those types of crimes.”

While there are more auto thefts in the warmer months, police do see a spike in certain type of auto theft when it is cold.

That is the kind where someone warms up their car, goes back inside and leaves it running with the doors unlocked and keys in the ignition.

Of course, when they come out, often the car is gone.

It is only a good idea to leave your car to warm up if you have a remote start in which your car remains locked.

If someone were to break in, they would not be able to drive off without the keys in the ignition.

With those remote starters, there is a better chance your windows will not be fogged up or glazed over with ice when you drive away.

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