Stephen Wolfe March 15, 2016

Crime rates are rather tricky to predict. After all, there are so many factors that can influence them.

For example, at the outside of Great Recession, many criminologists predicted a crime wave. What happened, however, is that crime went down, not up.

Could it be, as some scholars suggested recently, that the presence or absence of Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a factor in crime rates? In this post, we will discuss that issue.

Twice a year, setting clocks forward or backward one hour prompts a litany of complaints from Americans. The concerns are multiple, but all related to the phenomenon of sleep disruption.

Research has shown that this disruption results in an increase in car accidents, heart attacks and strokes. It is also associated with increases in marital conflict, as spouses without proper rest are not at their best.

The rationale for DST was originally that it saves energy. But research now indicates that this isn't really the case anymore. To be sure, with DST you can have your lights on for an hour less in the evening. But this doesn't produce emergency savings when you've got to run the heat more often in the morning, not to mention the air conditioner later in the day.

Crime rates

What about the effect on crime of having more light in the evening?

Recently, researchers at the Brookings Institution looked at this question. The research began after Congress took action in 2007 to increase the length of DST by three weeks in the spring and one week in the fall.

The researchers concluded that when DST begins, the rate of robberies falls. They found that during the hour in the evening that added more ambient light, robbery rates dropped 27 percent. And overall, for the entire day, robbery declined by 7 percent.

Robbery wasn't the only crime the researchers looked at, either. They also analyzed data on rape and found evidence that it too declined with a return to DST.

Pointing to this data, the researchers went on to make an economic argument for keeping DST all year long. They did this by assigning a cost to each robbery and rape and estimating the potential savings from year-round DST.

Justice all year round

If you've been charged with a crime, however, it doesn't matter what time of year it is. What matters is that you are treated fairly by law enforcement, prosecutors and other participants in the criminal justice system.

Regardless of how it's measured, you don't want to do time. Getting a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side makes sense whether DST is in effect or not.