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Winter freezing out criminals?

CHAMPAIGN -- We've been suffering through frigid temperatures all winter long, but there could be a silver lining to all the snow and ice.
CHAMPAIGN -- We've been suffering through frigid temperatures all winter long, but there could be a silver lining to all the snow and ice. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera investigated whether the cold weather could be putting a freeze on criminals in Central Illinois.

When it gets cold, it can be hard to think about wanting to go outside at all. As we found out, criminals may be thinking twice before heading out in this record-breaking winter.

Whether the sun is out or snow is falling, officers like Champaign Police Department's Sergeant Bruce Ramseyer hit the road.

"We just keep our eyes open," said Ramseyer. "We like to have a presence in all the neighborhoods around if we can."

He's been patrolling Champaign streets for about 19 years.

"I like the people aspect," said Ramseyer. "You get to see people everyday, get to interact with different people everyday."

CPD officers respond to thousands of calls each month. Those numbers hold steady even when it's cold.

"Depending on the weather, we may have more traffic-related accidents," said Ramseyer.

The number of arrests from crime reports from January and Feburary of the past five years, seem more tied to the temperatures.

"The cold weather definitely slows people down so maybe they wouldn't be as willing to lift heavy objects and to run from the police as much, possibly," said Ramseyer.

In January and February of 2012, the average temperature was 33. CPD officers arrested 14 people and they put out 184 warrants. Compare that to this year: The average temperature has been closer to 19 degrees. In the first six weeks, they only arrested four people and put out 82 warrants.

"If crimes don't get reported to us, they don't get reported. So in theory, they didn't happen," said Ramseyer.

2010 was the next coldest year. The average was 22 degrees. There were more arrests and warrants than this year, but there was also a lot less snow. There were just 11 days of snowfall in 2010. This year we've had more than double that amount.

"We've got some fair weather criminals and we've got some pretty dedicated ones that don't care what the weather is," said Ramseyer.

Even though cold could scare off criminals, cops still have to brave it to keep the streets safe.

"The cold weather has an effect on everybody, good guys and bad guys alike," said Ramseyer. 

To see more statistics about cold weather and crime, click on the attached document.
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