Avoyelles Sheriff cautions public to be alert to property crimes during holidays

Theft and other property crimes significantly increase during the Christmas season, so residents and businesses need to take precautions to avoid becoming another number in that statistic, Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Doug Anderson said.

“Like most of us, criminals truly love the holiday season,” Anderson said. “The holiday season is open season as far as criminals are concerned. It's a time of great opportunity to steal.”

Every year there are stories of thieves stealing Christmas trees, taking children's gifts out of parked cars and homes, and armed robbers sticking up holiday shoppers and stores.

Anderson said theft, property crimes and armed robberies of homes and businesses may increase during this holiday season because of increased opportunities for the criminals. Late spring and early summer are also high-crime periods.

While the the overall number of armed robberies is about the same this year as in past years, Anderson said there were some high-profile robberies that attracted more attention than robberies in the past.

APSO statistics from 2014 to this October shows only those crimes reported to APSO. Anderson said APSO reports the crimes it investigates to the national data base for crimes. Some municipalities conduct their own investigations of crimes within their city limits and may not report their numbers to the national data base, he noted.

The department investigated one armed robbery in 2014, five in 2015, three in 2016 and three so far in 2017. None of those crimes occurred in December.

December statistics noted APSO investigated 18 burglaries in both 2014 and 2015 and 14 in 2016.

The highest number of burglaries in 2014 were in May, September and December with 18 in each month. In 2015, December was the highest with 18 while in 2016 the highest numbers were in May and June with 22. The worst month for burglaries so far in 2017 is June, with 19.

For thefts, December 2014 had 30, second to June’s 36. In 2015, there were only 19 thefts in December, which was the second-lowest month of the year. The highest month was June with 37.

There were 31 thefts in December 2016, which was the highest for the year. September has the most theft cases so far this year with 31.

He said APSO reports the crimes it investigates to the national data base for crimes, the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is managed by the FBI. The FBI compiles the information from reporting agencies for publication. Municipalities do not report their crime stats to APSO and only a few may actually report using the UCR database.

Most robbery victims are “women and senior citizens, people they perceive as being unable to fight back,” Anderson said. “ They also break into homes and businesses when they think no one is there to confront them.

“As opportunists, they are constantly on the prowl, looking for a door with a flimsy lock or someone casually swinging a handbag on one finger,” he added.

Law enforcement and security professionals say noise and lights are the best crime deterrents. An audible alarm, a barking dog and bright lights will often send the common thief running.

“It's easy to be distracted, but you should always be alert and aware of your surroundings,” Anderson said. “Thieves, working in teams, will bump into you to distract you as they steal.”

The sheriff said businesses should keep cash, items that can be easily pocketed, and credit card information under lock and key. “Don't leave merchandise in your vehicles or visible in a storefront overnight or over the weekend,” he said.

Anderson said people should always be aware that thieves will steal their belongings if given the right opportunity.

“You can greatly reduce those opportunities by being alert, aware and by installing basic crime prevention measures like alarms, cameras and lights,” he said.

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