The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 5, 2012

As holiday heats up, so do break-ins, burglaries

Home burglaries and car break-ins have been prevalent recently in the Beckley area. While police are making progress in tracking the individuals responsible for the thefts, property owners can make themselves and their possessions a little less vulnerable.

Beckley City Police Detective Capt. Jeff Shumate says investigators are working to find those involved in the crimes and have been having success. Authorities have identified and are preparing to file charges against the individuals thought to be involved in the car break-ins that have occurred near Park Avenue; there are now persons of interest for break-ins in the Harper Road area; and have arrested and charged Erica Leanne Prince, 21, and Nicholas Dale Bragg, 25, with burglary for their alleged involvement in thefts in the Kanawha Street area, Shumate said. Both Price and Bragg are being held in the Southern Regional Jail.

The break-ins around the Beckley area are most likely being perpetrated by more than one person, Shumate said; adding that 8 percent of the population commits 80 percent of crimes.

It is not unusual for break-ins and burglaries to increase during this time of year. Shumate explained the winter months enable people to wear several layers of clothing — in essence helping disguise their identity — without looking suspicious or out of place.

There are some simple and “common sense” steps the general population should take in order to protect their homes, cars and possessions from those looking to make a grab. Shumate said many of the vehicles that recently have had items stolen had been unlocked. He advises people to make sure their cars are secure and items of value are not left in plain view — making it more enticing for a perpetrator to break-in. He also encourages drivers to park in well-lighted areas.

To protect a home from potential burglaries, Shumate encourages those who are traveling to ask a trusted friend, neighbor or family member to check on an empty home every day, if possible. Mail and newspapers should also be removed daily from their respective boxes — also an indicator that a homeowner is traveling and away from the home for an extended period of time. Timed lights can also be a deterrent, Shumate said.

With Christmas just around the corner and many people shopping and buying high-ticket items, parking lots can also be grounds for those looking to steal. Shumate says shoppers who purchase an item that they do not want to continue carrying, should make sure their purchase is placed in the trunk of a car or covered so that passers by cannot see the merchandise.

And, after the holidays when all the pricey gadgets have been unwrapped, homeowners should be cautious about setting boxes outside. Shumate said thieves could see that a home just received a new, large television and that the house might be a good target.

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