A crime surge that has plagued the country in recent years is unlikely to subside in the next few months, with experts warning that the summer months typically lead to an increase in violent crime.
"When the warm weather comes you generally see more crime, especially violent crime, because more people out on the streets, more chances of victimization," Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and current professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice told Fox News.
Giacalone's point was backed up by a 2014 study from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which found that certain types of crime are more common between June and August. Using surveys of crime victims compiled between 1983 and 2010, the BJS found "serious violence was significantly higher during the summer than during the winter, spring and fall seasons."
Property crimes were also more likely, with the chances that homes will be broken into increasing 11% in the summer months as people spend more time outdoors and away from their homes.
While researchers have noted the undeniable trend that certain types of crime are more common in the summer, debate surrounds the reason for the sudden summer surge, with some noting that summer months include longer days, higher foot traffic and kids being out of school.
"Our daily routines are different in the summer months and puts us in situations more frequently where a crime could occur," Dr. Josh Klapow, a psychologist and professor at the University of Alabama, told Fox Weather last month.
That problem could be even more pronounced this summer, with violent crime in many major cities already outpacing historic highs from the previous two years.
Some experts believe that part of the spike in violence can be traced back to pandemic related lockdowns that isolated people from their support systems, caused mass unemployment and kept kids out of schools for months at a time. Others have cited widespread anti-police protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which led to a scaling back of police funding and a more passive approach to law enforcement in the aftermath.
Such large-scale breakdowns of major institutions in such a short period of time are unlikely to be rebuilt quickly, according to Heritage Foundation legal fellow Amy Swearer, who told Fox News that many juveniles never returned to the classroom and instead became caught up in criminal activity.
"A chronic absenteeism rates, kids are just not going back to school, and they’re getting caught up in a lot of other types of delinquency," Swearer said. "You saw the same thing with sort of the loss of gang violence intervention services, sort of formal and informal… bulwarks within the communities during COVID. You don’t fix that overnight."
However, schools were not the only institutions to suffer breakdowns during the pandemic, with summer camps and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts closing or offering limited services in recent years. Boy Scout membership fell 43% between 2019 and 2020, according to the Associated Press, while fewer organizations offering summertime activities to juveniles were available as an alternative to its former members.
Church membership has also been declining at a record pace, with less than 50% of Americans now saying they are a member of a church. COVID lockdowns may have helped speed the trend, with many states placing restrictions on gatherings that made it all but impossible for churches to hold weekly services. Churches lost millions of congregants as a result, many of whom never returned even as restrictions eased.
Belief in God has also sharply declined in recent years, with a record-low 81% of Americans indicating belief in God in 2022, according to Gallup. Young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have shed belief in God at a faster pace than other age groups, falling 10% since 2017 to a new low of 68%.
Many Americans who used to turn to these institutions for a sense of community, support and purpose may now be more likely to turn to criminal activity.
"We really have to look at the way that these long COVID shutdowns really interrupted a lot of vital services," Swearer said. "We are seeing unfortunately the continued effect of these factors happening at the same time."
All of those factors could contribute to a particularly violent summer, something the White House has already tried to get ahead of as the weather warms up. Last month, President Joe Biden began calling on local leaders to use funds made available by the American Rescue Plan for their police departments.
"Use these funds we made available to you to prioritize public safety," he said. "Do it quickly, before the summer, when crime rates typically surge. Taking action today is going to save lives tomorrow. So, use the money. Hire the police officers. Build up your emergency response systems. Invest in proven solutions."
However, even if there is more investment in police departments, Giacalone pointed out that recent policy changes will make it harder for police to do their jobs when summer violence kicks in.
"You have cities that are actually banning the cops from doing car stops," Giacalone said. "In Chicago, they just passed the rule that cops can't even foot pursue. So what do you think is going to happen? They have made every effort to make sure that criminals run free."