Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 18, 2012

Area officials: Home burglaries on uptick

PRINCETON — Sports, shopping, fashions and other aspects of life come in cycles, and so do types of crime. Home burglary is one of the crimes the region is seeing more of as the holiday season approaches.

“I guess you could attribute it to the time of year,” Sgt. D.W. Miller, commander of the West Virginia State Police detachment in Princeton said about local break-ins.

When holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas approach on the calendar, a need for money and other factors help generate more burglaries.

“It normally runs in cycles,” Miller said. “We’ll see the break-ins and shoplifting increase this time of year.” The number of thefts tends to decrease somewhat after the first of the year, he added.

Some thieves target specific items such as jewelry. Prices for precious metals are high, so items such as gold jewelry are often stolen, Miller said.

In neighboring McDowell County, thieves are seeking precious metals, too, but deputies with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department are also getting more calls about thefts of copper and scrap metal, said Chief Deputy Mark Shelton.

“It’s still pretty widespread,” he said of the thefts. Complaints about larcenies are up, but getting exact numbers is often difficult because not all of the crimes are reported.

“It seems like we’re hearing about some of these larceny complaints a week or two later while checking about another one,” Shelton said. “They’re just not reporting them.”

Residents sometimes feel they will not get their property back, or they do not have serial numbers, he said. Reporting these crimes would help because they give the sheriff’s department a better idea about which areas of the county to watch.

When a person comes home and discovers that there has been a burglary, it is important to call 911 and let police officers enter the home first, local officers said.

“Yes, absolutely for safety’s sake and evidence’s sake,” Miller said. “You don’t want to go in and surprise them; also, you could disturb some evidence that could lead us to the perpetrators like footprints, fingerprints, or other evidence of that sort.”

Across the state line in Bluefield, Va., police recently caught one person who was taking items out of a downtown home, said Chief Harry Cundiff.

“We keep a close eye on the neighborhoods. The presence of police always helps,” he said.  However, homes in outlying areas are harder to watch, and thieves watch residents and try to determine when they will not be at home.

“They read the obituaries column and anything else to know when to hit,” Cundiff said, adding that drugs are often the motive for these crimes.

“It’s what they can do to get that fix,” he emphasized.

Neighborhood watches are good deterrents to burglars. Informing police and neighbors when you will be away is another good precaution to take. Unfortunately, thieves sometimes encounter people at home.

“We’re seeing more people going in on people actually at home, and that’s not a good mix,” Cundiff said. “Sooner or later, it’s going to end very badly for somebody – the victim or the person committing the crime.”

People should also watch for suspicious activity such as  unfamiliar vehicles going through neighborhoods. Some thieves have started leaving license plates off their vehicles in an attempt to avoid being identified when they check a community, Cundiff said.

“If you’re driving and you see a vehicle without tags, call the police because that’s a pretty good indicator,” he added.

Residents should also call their local law enforcement agencies if they want to avoid being a burglary victim. Officers can offer advice for making homes less attractive to intruders.

“We would much rather come out and see how to burglar proof a home than come out and investigate one,” Cundiff concluded.�

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