Patrolling in wintertime can be plenty dangerous

Every year as summer nears I hear the same thing: “Better get ready, its getting warm out and they [gang members] are going to be out in force.” 

The thinking is that as the weather improves, days get longer and kids get out of school, cops everywhere must prepare for an increase in activity. Gang cops prepare for higher levels of gang violence than seen during the rest of the year. 

But is this really the case?

A few years ago I was assigned to a gang task force working in a city with a notoriously high level of gang violence. It was January. During a pre-deployment briefing we were told to expect a lot of gang violence there. This was based on crime analysis that showed the wintertime to be the most violent time there. 

The predication turned out to be spot on. There were shootings every night, two of them ending in homicides. I’ve worked in that city many times over the years and that was the most violent I’ve ever seen it.

As I look back on my career, January has been a bad month for me as well. I’ve been involved in two on-duty shootings — one as officer on scene during the shooting and one as the actual shooter. Both occurred in January. I’ve also responded to one officer murdered in the line of duty in January.

I recently researched the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) statistics for recent years. When looking at officers who were feloniously killed, January is right up there with every other month in terms of officers violently murdered. So the cold winter months unfortunately don’t necessarily lead to a decrease in violence against officers as one might expect. 

On a brighter note, according to the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund, January was the safest month of 2013. On the downside, there has already been a 21 percent increase in officer deaths in 2014 compared to 2013.

So, as the days get short and the weather is cold don’t be lulled into a sense of complacency. 

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