Crime happens all day long, but when it peaks and wanes really depends on where you live.

After we brought crime maps into the world, we decided take a deeper look at when crime typically happens throughout the day in 25 big cities across the country. What did we find? Well, as the old adage goes, crime doesn’t pay…but it sure does look like it’s working 9 to 5 (plus a nightshift) in some cities.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details about when crime happens throughout the day, let’s clear the air about what our crime data is really telling us. You see, there is no uniform way for reporting crime. Police agencies in SF have a different system then the cops in Miami….so on and so forth. So technically speaking, what you’re really looking at here is when crime gets reported as opposed to when criminals strike. So with that prelude, here’s the scoop …

3AM: When the Devil’s Off Duty
According to the “Exorcism of Emily Rose,” 3AM is the devil’s hour, but backed by hundreds of thousands of data points over a bunch of cities, we disagree. Judging by the volume of crime at this hour, it looks pretty safe to us.

Check it out – so if you made graphs illustrating when criminal activity goes up and down over a 24 hour period for a bunch of U.S. cities (which we did), and then overlaid them on top of each other (look at the pretty picture below if you’re not following), you’ll see a very distinct early morning dip in crime between 3AM and 7AM. Conclusion: it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be struck by a smooth criminal in the dead of the night ‘cause the devil appears to be crashed out during his allotted “hour.”



9(ish)AM: Thieves and Burglars Get to Work
Most thieves “clock in” in the morning or early afternoon just like the rest of us. That’s why you usually see a spike in reports of thefts and burglaries around lunch time and after work (since that’s when people go home and realize they’ve been robbed). All in all, stealing definitely seems to be the bad deed of choice in most of the cities that we looked at – here is where it reigns supreme:

# U.S. City % Thefts Reported
1. Houston, TX 63%
2. Atlanta, GA 61%
3. Madison, WI 59%
4. Los Angeles, CA 59%
5. Indianapolis, IN 58%

9PM: Danger Zone
Similarly, violent crimes such as assaults or robberies typically happen at night around 9-10PM while people are out on the town. While this might seem like a no brainer, how dangerous this danger zone actually is varies depending on where you are. San Franciscans, according to our data, need to learn to hug it out. Right now, assaults make up a whopping 55% of all the crimes reported. Meanwhile, robberies are quite common in Philadelphia (where our 3AM dip theory doesn’t apply, but more on that below) as it makes up 13% of the crimes reported.

Location, Location, Location
But are these ups and downs in criminal activity the same across America? Not by a long shot. As you can see by our nifty little charts, when crime happens varies by city. Here are a few notable anomalies:

Like we were saying earlier, the 3AM dip in criminal activity doesn’t happen in Philly. The chart we made actually looks like a flat plateau as crime gets reported all day, all the time. In other words, crimes are probably being committed non-stop throughout the day. Guess the self-titled “City of Brotherly Love” isn’t that loving after all.

Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, it looks like crime happens every hour, on the hour. This might be a bit concerning, especially for out-of-town tailgaters who want to be part of the action when the next Super Bowl rolls in. But like we said, we’re looking at when crime is reported so what this really tells us is that the boys in blue of Indy like to round their crime reports to the nearest hour.

Now, let’s talk about Portland where we saw a rather peculiar blackout period between 11PM to 2AM – what gives? Well, with more strip clubs per capita (Yes, even more than Las Vegas) than any other U.S. city, perhaps this explains where folks are in P-town are at night. Fun Fact – this claim to fame was made possible, in part, by the fact that getting naked in public is a constitutionally protected form of free speech and has helped this little cottage industry thrive.

But don’t take our word for it. Play around with the charts yourself and you be the judge – we’d love to hear what you think so feel free to share your thoughts about crime in the comments below.