Crime in Miss-Lou often goes up during holiday season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And Wesley Steckler

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ &8212; Though the the holiday season is generally filled with merriment and cheer, officials in the Miss-Lou agree that certain factors during this time of year &8212; such as cold weather and an influx of people in the area &8212; can significantly raise crime rates.

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December is one of the peak months for requests for service, Natchez Police Chief Mike Mullins said.

Although his department does not see a big increase in domestic violence, other crimes &8212; like aggravated assault, robberies and burglaries &8212; jump around the holidays, Mullins said.

&8220;Any time there are more people in the area, you&8217;re going to have more disturbances and more vehicle accidents because there&8217;s more interaction,&8221; he said.

The most important thing people can do to prevent being victims of such crimes is to keep valuables out of view in their cars, Mullins said.

&8220;In the majority of cars broken into this time of year, somebody has left either a purse or a valuable item in plain view in their car &8212; a purse, laptop or weapon,&8221; he said.

Another step people can take is to make sure their cars are locked.

&8220;A good percent of those cars are left open with something in plain view,&8221; Mullins said. &8220;Always lock your car and make sure nothing is in plain view that would be of value to somebody.&8221;

As crime jumps over the holidays, so will the number of patrols, he said. The police department puts more officers on patrol, especially at night and on busy days.

&8220;We&8217;re looking for people that might be looking in cars for something to steal,&8221; Mullins said. &8220;We&8217;ll have officers not in uniform, too, looking for people who look like they might be waiting to break into a vehicle or assault someone.&8221;

A police presence can deter crime before it happens, he said. With law officers&8217; help, he said, if people take steps to prevent being victims of crime, they&8217;ll have happier holidays.

Adams County Sheriff Ronny Brown said neighborhood watch programs can come in handy during the holidays as well.

&8220;If you and your family are going out of town, ask your neighbors who are staying to keep an eye on your house,&8221; Brown said.

Brown said one of the reasons people steal people&8217;s shopping items is for drug money.

Concordia Parish law enforcement officials warn residents to keep a watchful eye on crime during the holidays.

Vidalia Police Chief Billy Hammers said crime typically increases during the holidays for a number of reasons.

&8220;Weather can be a factor,&8221; Hammers said. &8220;If it&8217;s too cold to go out, families and friends tend to get on one another&8217;s nerves. This is when our domestic violence and simple assault crimes go up.&8221;

Another reason crimes go up, Hammers said, is because around the holidays people tend to over-indulge.

&8220;We realize it&8217;s the holidays and people are going to drink, but if you are, for God&8217;s sake, don&8217;t drive,&8221; Hammers said.

Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said he, too, wants people to be on the look out for petty thieves and other offenders.

&8220;Unfortunately, when shopping, people sometimes have a tendency to get distracted and lose sight of their personal safety,&8221; Maxwell said. &8220;However there are several precautions busy shoppers can take to help eliminate their chances of becoming a statistic.&8221;

Shopping with another person, parking in well-lit places when shopping after dark and keeping cash in the front pockets are just some of the ways people can prevent crime from happening to them, Maxwell said.

Both Maxwell and Hammers said people should take advantage of the increased numbers of officers on duty during the holidays.

&8220;Always watch around the neighborhood for suspicious behavior,&8221; Hammers said. &8220;And if you see something out of the ordinary, call the police.&8221;

Maxwell said if shoppers feel uneasy about returning to their cars at night to find a security guard and have them escort to their car.