Heat

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Police say crime increases when temperatures rise.

Forecasters are predicting extremely high temperatures this weekend, as heat index levels climb well over 100 degrees.

Dan Spaeth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., said highs will reach the upper 90s in Cape Girardeau over the weekend, with staggering heat indexes topping off at 110 to 115 degrees. The high heat index, as well as its duration, is much greater this season than last summer, Spaeth said. Southeast Missouri experienced some hot summer days in 2002, but even then, he said, the high heat index did not last as long as this summer.

"There might have been a stray day that heat reached extreme temperatures, but there really is no evidence of any long duration such as this," Spaeth said.

Heat indexes are a calculation of heat and humidity, and Spaeth said the wet weather brought by Hurricane Dennis is mostly to blame for the unusually steamy weather. He said the scorching temperatures probably will not subside until Tuesday.

One thing that seems to go along with the hot weather is hot tempers, and Cape Girardeau police spokesman Jason Selzer said local law enforcement officers can measure crime rates with a thermometer.

"We've definitely been busier since the temperatures have gone up," he said. "More activity and shorter tempers make for more business for us."

Selzer said officers see more incidents of physical confrontation during the summer months, and in 2004, assaults were more common in July and August than in January and February, according to Cape Girardeau police department records. Officers in Cape Girardeau arrested 52 people in January and 45 people in February for assault. But they arrested 80 in July and 69 in August.

Often, Selzer said, summertime crimes occur during the evenings when the weather starts to cool down somewhat and people begin to venture outdoors. Still, he said it is difficult to tell the exact impact of the heat, or even what specific crimes are weather-related.

Dr. Paul Lloyd, professor of psychology at Southeast Missouri State University, said heat can cause people to be more hostile or aggressive because high temperatures cause the body to produce more stress hormones, such as adrenaline.

"It makes people keyed up," he said.

However, he said psychological research on the affects of heat on crime rates is "mixed."

wmcferron@semissourian.com

335-6611 ext. 127

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