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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Local crime spikes as economy tumbles

Burglary, violent crimes toward women usually rise during economic downturns, professor says

By Shelley Grieshop

Various types of crime such as home and vehicle break-ins have risen in the Gran. . .

Vehicle break-ins have tripled in the last year and home burglaries are up slightly as the local area feels the effects of a plagued economy.
"I think it's a two-fold issue. Crime has gone up and criminals are getting braver," said Chief Deputy Gery Thobe of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office.
Overall, daytime burglaries are on the rise, which means criminals are taking bigger risks, he added.
Thobe believes many vehicle break-ins are drug-related.
"It's mostly change they're after, money for drugs," he said. "They also look for small, expensive items they can quickly turn into cash."
According to recent investigations, thieves are targeting specific neighborhoods, going house to house and vehicle to vehicle, Thobe said. Unfortunately, a lot of residents give criminals ample opportunity by leaving their homes and vehicles unlocked, he said.
Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser agrees that cars and trucks have become prime targets for anyone looking for a few bucks, video games or other electronics. To add to the problem, several area stores give customers cash for used video games and CDs, he added.
Overall crime statistics for the city are up only slightly but Slusser is pessimistic.
"I really don't think it's hit us yet," he said. "The worse is yet to come."
Slusser believes crime will continue to rise alongside unemployment rates. He also fears that criminals from out of the area will begin targeting our local communities after tapping out targeted homes and businesses in their own area.
Joseph Donnermeyer, professor of the rural sociology program at The Ohio State University in Columbus, said certain crimes increase in poor economic times.
"Burglary and violent crimes toward women typically rise when there's a downturn in the economy," he said.
Violence is most often geared toward women by men who've experienced a job layoff or other financial setback, Donnermeyer added.
Oddly enough, some crimes are more frequent in good economic times, he said. In those times, people tend to have more cash and free time, which often leads to an increase in alcohol and hard drug usage, he said.
"When things are good there's more white-collar crime," he said, adding that fact has contributed to the state of our country today.
Donnermeyer hopes the media attention about the rise in crime will bring about an awakening.
"It can bring a moral panic of sorts, but that can be a silver lining. People will take more precautions," he said.
Programs designed to protect residential properties such as Neighborhood Watch can make everyone safer and bring communities together, Donnermeyer said.

Defend your turf:
A home burglary occurs somewhere in the U.S. every 15.4 seconds and costs victims about $2,000 per offense, according to the FBI. More than half of all residential burglaries occur during the day.
The most common item taken from homes is cash, followed closely by tools, television sets, stereos, cameras, laptops and computers. Jewelry, food, clothing, gasoline and guns round out the list.
Here's a few tips to protect your home:
• Invest in solid doors and quality locks.
• Always lock your doors and windows when you leave. Sliding doors are frequently used by burglars.
• Install motion lights or some type of outside lighting by all entranceways.
• Plant thorny bushes under windows and trim back trees and shrubs where thieves could hide.
• Don't put valuables where they can be seen from a window.
• Secure your garage door.
• Don't hide spare keys under the door mat or a flower pot. Those are the first places criminals look.
• Engrave all valuables such as stereos, video cameras with your driver's license and videotape them for identification purposes.
Thieves who prey on vehicles most often steal cash and small items such as GPS devices, which are easy to grab and later sell. The best defense is a locked vehicle with tempting possessions stored out of view, law enforcement officials say.
- Shelley Grieshop
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