Verify: Does crime increase during a full moon?
Author: Chelsea Beimfohr
Published: 11:26 PM EDT November 2, 2017
Updated: 11:40 PM EDT November 2, 2017
VERIFY 0 Articles

On Saturday night, a beautiful, full moon will appear in the evening sky. For decades, it's served as a source of superstition.

It's a night that some law enforcement agencies say they "brace for."

So we set out to Verify, does crime increase when a full moon appears in the sky?

WMAZ started by referencing the Farmer's Almanac and picked these four full moon dates from the last year.

  • February 10th

  • April 11th

  • July 9th

  • September 6th

Then we sent the dates to the Macon-Bibb 911 dispatch center to see if first responders noticed a spike in calls during those days.

Turns out, that wasn't really the case.

Two of our full moon dates saw an average of only 4 more calls than the same day a week later. The other two full moon dates saw lower call numbers by an average of 95 calls.

WMAZ turned to Middle Georgia State psychology professor Corey Smith, who has spent more than a decade teaching others about human behavior.

"The science on this is pretty clear," says Smith. "There's not really a link between weird behavior and a full moon."

Instead, Smith thinks this lunar superstition could be attributed to a psychological phenomenon known as "confirmation bias."

"So, if we expect something to happen, like weird behavior on a full moon, we're more likely to notice those occurrences because it would support what we expected," says Smith.

So what does law enforcement expect on the eve of a full moon?

"It's not uncommon to hear officers say, 'Aww, man, it's a full moon tonight, we're gonna be busy tonight,'" says Captain Brad Wolfe with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office.

Wolfe says it's something the department jokes about, but in his experience, he can't recall anything "noteworthy" happening that he could attribute to a full moon.

So, for now, we're verifying this claim as false. It appears that crime does not increase during a full moon.


Lunar secrets: Why doesn’t the moon have a better name?

CINCINNATI (USA TODAY) — The moon is our closest neighbor in space. For thousands of years, our ancestors have gazed up at its silvery glow and tried to make sense of its rhythm and aura. Memorialized in literature, song and dance since the dawn of time, the moon tugs at our romantic nature and inspires our soul.

Here are answers to the most common lunar questions received at the Cincinnati Observatory.

Why can I sometimes see the whole moon even when only a crescent is illuminated?

This effect is caused by earthshine — the light of the sun shines on the Earth and reflects upon the moon. Earthshine brightens the moon enough to see it against the darkness of the sky. Now moonshine, that’s something else entirely.

What is a blue moon?

A blue moon refers to the second full moon in a calendar month. The term, as we now know it, only dates back to a 1946 Sky and Telescope magazine article. A blue moon doesn’t actually make the moon appear blue in color. But during the next blue moon on Jan. 31, 2018, it will look strange. That morning, we will have a partial lunar eclipse. Look for the shadow of the Earth blocking out part of the moonlight just before sunrise that day.

Why does the moon look bigger when it is near the horizon?

This effect is called the moon Illusion and it has been debated for centuries. Although the moon appears larger when it is near the horizon, it really isn’t. You can measure the size of the moon by holding a hole-punched index card at arm’s length. The moon is about the same size as the hole both on the horizon and high in the sky. It just looks larger.

Is there a difference between the far side and dark side of the moon?

Yes. Since the same face of the moon is always pointing to us, we never get to see the other side or far side. Only 24 Apollo astronauts have actually seen the far side for themselves. But the far side is not always dark, nor is the dark side always far. The “dark side of the moon” is merely the part of the moon not illuminated by the sun. It is always changing based on the moon phases.

How long does it take to travel to the moon?

When the astronauts went to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, it took them three days to get there (and three days to get back). A rocket called the Saturn V launched them into space. The Saturn V stood 363 feet tall (equal or greater in height to many city skyscrapers), and still remains the largest launch vehicle ever used.

Why doesn’t the moon have a better name?

It is just called "the moon." The name is a holdover from the old English word "Mona" and a time when astronomers didn’t know other moons existed. However, the moon goes by other names in our cultures. To the ancient Greeks, it was "Selene," in Latin and Spanish, it is "Luna," and in Swahili, it is "Mwezi."

So many moon myths and such little time — moon phases, eclipses, tides, craters and even green cheese. The more you observe and study this ball of rock 240,000 miles from Earth, the more you’ll turn into a moon-lover, or as we astronomers say, a “Luna-tic.”