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Holidays are season for crime

Law enforcement officials say crime usually increases this time of year.

Law enforcement officials say crime usually increases this time of year.

December 16, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - 'Tis the season for reindeer and robberies, Santa and shoplifting, egg nog and drunken drivers, mistletoe and misdemeanors.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with police throughout the Tri-State area saying that this time of year, crime usually increases.

Robberies, thefts, domestic violence and drunken driving incidents tend to increase, police said. Suicides rise, too, they said.

Franklin County, Pa., Sheriff Robert Wollyung said he notices a slight increase in the number of assaults during the holidays.

"Personal interaction is a little tighter," he said.

People get together more frequently, increasing the chances of trouble, he said.

A state trooper for 29 years, Wollyung now handles mostly court security matters as sheriff. He said he learned during his time on the roads that impatience, combined with foul weather, can increase the risk of car accidents this time of year.

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Along with common sense advice, such as locking one's doors and using a designated driver if needed, Wollyung encouraged people to revel in the holiday spirit.

"Relax and enjoy the season for what it is," he said. "Be kind to one another. It goes a long way, it really does."

Sgt. Bob Leatherman with the Washington County Sheriff's Department said December tends to usher in a season of crime.

"More people are out shopping. More people are out spending money," he said.

To combat potential thefts, Leatherman said extra deputies patrol malls and the Prime Outlets shopping complex as part of the department's Operation Safe Holiday. Officers are visible in parking lots to try to deter car break-ins, he said.

That may be why this year the trend has not held true. Leatherman said he has not seen an obvious increase or decrease in crime.

Police in Berkeley County, W.Va., need to look no farther than several recent convenience store robberies as evidence crime increases this time of year.

"It's basically people that want to make sure they have some sort of Christmas," said Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster, with the Sheriff's Department.

He theorized that many crimes may also be drug-related.

This time of year, Lemaster said, deputies in his department make sure they exchange information with other police agencies since criminals do not distinguish between jurisdictions. Officers in the department also keep each other aware of what's happening, he said.

If robberies seem to be concentrated in one area, more frequent patrols will be done there, Lemaster said.

More drunken drivers may be on the road, Lemaster said, including people who do not normally drink but indulge for the season.

Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith said that at least twice a year - including once already this season - someone's home is broken into and all the Christmas presents are taken.

"And sometimes the tree, too," Smith said.




Holiday crime tips


Tips to protect yourself during the holidays:

  • In your car, hide small items such as cell phones under your seat and larger items, including packages, in the trunk.

  • Lock the doors to your home and car. Keep keys hidden.

  • Use a designated driver if you plan to drink alcohol.

  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. If you do, don't make it visible.

  • Shop and park in well-lighted areas.

  • Keep an eye out for drunken drivers.


- Compiled from area law enforcement officials.

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