NEW JERSEY — With temperatures expected to be high this weekend — peaking at 110 degrees on Sunday — Col. Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the State Police, said he is mindful of what it might mean for potential violence.
“For the past several years, heat has had a direct correlation with violent crime,” he said as part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus update Friday. “People want to be outside…with their friends and community members, but then sometimes, for violent recidivist offenders, it offers opportunities for them to retaliate and to be violent. So, we're certainly monitoring that as well.”
The combination of an economy on a downturn, social unrest surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, blistering weather and the pandemic have made for a lethal “cocktail,” Murphy said during his Wednesday press briefing.
The State Police superintendent said shooting deaths in 2020 increased by 19% compared to mid-July last year — 100 fatal shootings whereas this point in 2019 saw 84. In all, shootings, fatal and non-fatal, increased by 3% (553 compared to 538 last year).
Although the past two nights have been quiet, Callahan said so with a grain of salt.
“We're just praying for a safe weekend,” Murphy said. “[We know] there's a high correlation between oppressive heat and bad behavior, and we just got to plead with folks to not take that bait.”
New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities and the State of Emergency Operations Center will be on hand to monitor any issues over the weekend, the governor noted.
According to the National Weather Service, most of New Jersey will plateau around the mid-90s from Saturday to Tuesday — with “excessive heat” predicted for parts of the state starting Sunday.
With beaches, lakes and river fronts expected to draw crowds, Murphy reminded residents to socially distance and wear face masks.