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Caution can stop crimes

Holidays might bring joy and laughter for some families, but according to local law enforcement officials, Christmas pressure can turn to desperation – and crime – for some.

Monday, December 13, 1999

Holidays might bring joy and laughter for some families, but according to local law enforcement officials, Christmas pressure can turn to desperation – and crime – for some.

With the added pressure of finding gifts on already strained budgets, thefts and other criminal acts logically increase during the holiday season, Ironton Police Department Chief Rodney McFarland said.

"There are more incidents of breaking and entering, petty theft, shoplifting and things like that," he said. "And, there are people who cruise up and down parking lots just for that purpose –  to find an easy target."

The increased incidents are directly related to the holidays, he added.

"All of this sort of thing increases close to Christmas," he said. "And then, historically, it does seem to taper off just a few days after Christmas, so one could say the two are related."

Theft, shoplifting and burglary are not the only crimes that happen with increased frequency throughout the month of December, McFarland added. Crimes of domestic violence also become more common.

"It seems like we have an increase in crimes against the family around Christmas," he said. "A lot of people feel bad over the holiday when there just isn’t enough money and that tends to make all the other problems, such as job problems and things like that, seem that much worse."

But the main contributing factor to a rise in crime through the Christmas season is simply one of numbers, McFarland said.

"It’s crime of opportunity, not so much a crime of desperation," he said. "There are more cars on the parking lots at the shopping centers, and by the sheer numbers of vehicles on the lot, it makes sense that a person walking through the lot is not very likely to become suspect as someone about to commit a crime."

Instead, security guards have their hands full assisting large numbers of people, making it impossible to watch every area all the time.

"Everyone is basically too busy to notice, which means a great opportunity for a thief," he said. "That’s why taking precautions like not leaving a package or purse in plain view is so important."

Knowing the crime volume does increase, the thieves also know police officers are kept busier, making a fast response time difficult. But, as residents become more aware of the situation, they can take care of themselves and help prevent incidents, McFarland said.

"There are probably all kinds of factors that go into the increase, but people can help decrease it by just being extra cautious," he said.