Daylight saving time is a huge inconvenience for criminals

Pros and Cons of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight saving time starts this Sunday.

But most people aren't exactly huge fans.

Having to wake up an hour earlier on some arbitrary day in March is, simply put, not ideal.

Not to mention having to remember to sync up all of your phones and watches.

But some good does come out of the dreaded time-switch: robbery rates drop significantly.

In a recently published paper, Jennifer L. Doleac and Nicholas J. Sanders present empirical estimates of the effect of ambient light on violent crime. They found that way less robberies are committed when daylight-saving time begins in the spring, with a particularly significant drop during that extra hour of sunlight in the time right after work.

"Results show that daily cases of robbery, a violent and socially costly street crime, decrease by approximately 7% in the weeks after DST begins, with a 19% drop in the probability of any robbery occurring. A 27% decrease in the robbery rate during the sunset hours drives much of this result," they write in the paper.

Doleac and Sanders hammer out several factors why this might be the case, highlighting the fact that the "prime time for crime" is during the hours that people are on their way home from work:

  1. More daylight during the 5-6 p.m. time when people are going home could discourage offenders from doing anything as there is a higher chance that they will be recognized.
  2. If it's lighter outside, then there might be more people walking around outside — which would mean more witnesses. (Although, Doleac and Sanders note that, on the flip side, this could also increase the number of potential victims.)
  3. The offenders' schedules might shift due to the time shift, "leaving them unavailable to commit crime until after most potential victims have gone home."

"The first two explanations imply DST has a deterrent effect on crime, while the third explanation implies an incapacitation effect that does not rely on incarceration," they note. "Regardless of the mechanism, it is clear the relationship between daylight and clock time matters when it comes to crime."

Notably, the authors add that DST does not have as great of an affect on aggravated assault, although they found "suggestive evidence of impacts for rape and murder, though results are more sensitive to time-of-year controls than robbery."

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Daylight saving time is a huge inconvenience for criminals
Benjamin Franklin essentially came up with this glorious time exchange in 1741, when he was an ambassador for Paris.Though it wasn't until World War I that Europe truly started to implement Daylight Saving Time in order to bolster their war efforts.

DST before 2007 used to fall a few days before Halloween, but since the holiday tends to come with increased accidents it was moved to the first Sunday in November, according to Acurite.

Though, some dispute that the change was made to allow Trick or Treaters to stay out longer. 

Circa 1955: Silhouette of a witch on a broomstick flying over the skyline of New York City, Halloween.

(Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)

Arizona and Hawaii are the only two U.S. states that don't observe Daylight Saving Time. Pro: they don't have to worry about changing their clocks. Con: they never 'gain an hour.'

When World War II came around-- saving time was fashionable again and everyone wanted to get their hands on daylight saving time. However, it was near complete confusion in the United States-- there was no uniformity. According to Live Science, "One 35-mile bus ride from Moundsville, W.Va., to Steubenville, Ohio, took riders through no less than seven different time changes."

It was officially adopted by the U.S. in 1966. 

DST can affect the time you're born-- on paper that is. A baby could be born at 1:55 a.m. during daylight saving time, with another born ten minutes later, marked as 1:05 a.m.

Freaky, huh?

We hate to be that person-- but Daylight Saving Time is not plural, though many say and spell it as such. So, if you want to be that person you can spend the day correcting all of your friends when they say "daylight savings time."
Many countries near the equator do not adjust their clocks for daylight saving. Japan and China don't observe DST at all, and Antarctica doesn't either.

Interestingly, Doleac and Sanders also explore whether the benefits of less crime outweigh the cost increases associated with DST such as possible increased energy consumption, costly flight schedule changes for airlines, breaking up sleep patterns with the time switch, the negative effects of early school starts for middle and high school students, and, as the PTA suggested once, the risk of children "being kidnapped while waiting in the dark for a school bus."

"Most of these costs are due to the switch from standard time to DST rather than the impact of a later sunset per se, and are likely small in comparison to the benefits of the substantial drop in violent crime," argue Doleac and Sanders.

Moreover, the authors also factor in the economic angle of lower crime rates, which really gives a sense of how big of a difference this makes:

There remains the specific valuation of the social benefits of the decreased crime seen as a result of DST. McCollister et al. (2010) estimate the social cost of a robbery at $42,310. A back-of-the-envelope calculation implies the three-week extension of DST avoids $59.2 million nationally each year in avoided robberies.If we include the suggested impacts on rape (with an estimated social costs per crime of $240,776), the total social cost savings come to $246 million. These savings are from the three-week period of DST extension. General equilibrium effect are likely to vary substantially across different seasons and geographic regions, so one should do out-of-sample prediction with caution, but assuming a linear effects in other months, the implied social savings from a permanent, year-long change in ambient light would be almost twenty times higher.

In sum, yes, there are plenty of negative things to say about daylight-saving time. But there are also some serious public safety benefits.

Check out the full study and paper by Doleac and Sanders

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