The Dodge City Police Department (DCPD) responded to 52 burglaries in the month of November, a 60 percent increase for the same month last year. The reported cases include both residential and business as well as vehicle burglaries.
And contrary to popular belief, living or working in a “good part of town” doesn't diminish the likelihood of a burglary; crimes were reported as far north as Ross Blvd and as far south as U.S. Highway 400. Incidents also took place near 109 Road and on the opposite side of town on 113 Road.
Police Chief Craig Mellecker said no trends exist in locations or motives for the burglaries, but added that the holiday season does tend to bring a rise in crime rates.
So what can you do to ensure a Grinch doesn't steal your Christmas? Don't let your increase in holiday cheer take away your sense of awareness, even if you leave for the holidays.
The DCPD has a house watch program for residents going out of town. To get on the list, city residents just have to call the police department and inform them of the dates they plan to be gone. Officers will monitor the residence daily during their routine patrols.
Mellecker said automobile break-ins can be both crimes of opportunity and a planned thefts. He suggested being covert when putting things in the car for a hunting trip or vacation.
“If you parade around outside with your shotgun, all it takes is for someone to drive by and see you put it in your car,” he said. “You basically want to minimize what people know you have.”
Mellecker recommended breaking down holiday boxes and putting them inside a trash bin rather than setting them on the curb for trash pick up. A box for a big screen TV in front of a house is as good as letting a thief inside. The same goes for businesses receiving shipments.
The chief also warned against leaving shopping bags in the car where they can be easily seen by a crook. The same goes for valuables such as purses, cell phones and GPS devices. And while most people consider their driveway or garage to be part of their “safe zone”, an unaccompanied car in any location is vulnerable. The best way to avoid losing valuables in the car is to not leave them there in the first place.
Police records show of the 28 reported vehicle burglaries for November, arrests were made in four of the cases. In some cases the cars were left unlocked; but in others, the vehicle was damaged to gain entry.
Both Chief Mellecker and Ford County Sheriff Dean Bush said neighbors looking out for one another is a key piece in preventing and stopping burglaries. Bush said Neighborhood Watch programs were active in the county years ago, but have become less common as people move in and out of the area. Mellecker seconded the sheriff's thoughts and added that all it takes to start a program is a call to the police department where starter kits for a neighborhood watch program are available.
Page 2 of 2 - According to Mellecker, call volume dictates the amount of preventive patrols officers can do. And no one knows a neighborhood better than the people who live there, he said.
Ford County deputies face a similar problem when it comes to preventive patrol; and since they can't be everywhere at once, it could pay off to report a suspicious car or person in the area.
Both Bush and Mellecker said stolen items can go unreported for months, sometimes because victims don't want to deal with law enforcement, but more often because the crime goes unnoticed.
Bush gave the example of storage units in the county. In the past few months, multiple units have been burglarized, but it's nearly impossible to tell exactly what was taken and when. His advice — keep an eye on your things, and do so often. Both men also said writing down serial numbers on electronics, tools, anything that comes with a registered number, can make a huge difference. It makes valuables easier to track.
“We have a database with all the items that are turned into pawn shops. If we have a serial number, we can easily match up a stolen item with an owner," Bush said.
While an exact reason for an increase in burglaries in both the city and county is unknown, Bush said drugs drive property crimes.
“It's definitely a part of it,” he said.
In addition, Mellecker offered the following tips:
1. Clear brush and bushes away from windows and door ways. This allows neighbors and passer bys to see if anyone is trying to get into your residence.
2. Turn porch lights on at night.
3. Install motion activated lights around your home.
4. If you are going out of town, ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your newspapers and mail daily and don't post your absence on Facebook or Myspace.