JOPLIN, Mo. —
Because more people are outside, summer months are also prime time for crime. The Joplin Police Department has the stats to show that home burglaries increase during the summer within city limits. Over the past four years, burglaries are highest in August, then May and June.
"There's a couple of reasons for that," said Darren Gallup, of the Joplin Police Department. "It's warm, so people are away on vacations, and burglars are out as well."
Gallup's unit works specifically on crime prevention through environmental design. He said he works with homeowners and business owners about how to reduce the risk of being victimized by theft.
Homeowners can take a few simple steps to ensure that their loved ones and possessions are more safe through the summer months. The trick behind most of these tips is that they make a home less comfortable for a burglar to deal with, leading them to find another target, Gallup said.
- Lock doors and windows. Many of the burglaries reported to the police happened in situations where doors were unlocked, Gallup said.
- Ensure that exterior lighting is good.
Make sure landscaping is intrusive and close to the house, so it doesn't give invaders a place to hide and also impedes access to windows.
"You want bushes right underneath a window, where they actually have to climb through the bush to get to the window," Gallup said. "It makes it really difficult."
- If it's practical and your family can welcome a pet, consider getting a dog.
- Keep mail and newspapers from piling up.
Keep activity about vacations or trips to a minimum on social networks. Gallup said that lists of friends and family aren't always easy to control.
"It's tempting to tell friends that you can't wait to go to Mexico," Gallup said. "Just because that says 'friend list' doesn't mean everyone on the list is a friend. There are people who watch those."
- Keep up with general home maintenance and upkeep. A person with a well-maintained home can discourage thieves and send them to targets that appear easier to break into, Gallup said.
A neighborhood watch is also a good tool for helping to prevent crime. Any community meeting can go far in helping to keep a neighborhood safe, Gallup said.
Many area police departments keep plenty of resources, from pamphlets to kits, about how to organize a neighborhood watch. Gallup said studies from the Department of Justice show that neighborhood watches are effective deterrents.
"It can be as easy as getting together for a barbecue, or you can make it as complicated as a homeowner's association covenant," Gallup said. "We're moving toward crime-free neighborhoods, and a neighborhood watch is an instrument that helps."
If a neighborhood watch isn't practical, at least get to know neighbors so that your home can be watched while on vacation. Community involvement goes far when helping prevent crimes, Gallup said.
"We know that we can't do this ourselves," Gallup said. "We have to have the community's help, through watches and other programs. Those are the eyes and ears that help us."
Statistics show that summer months are most active for home burglaries. Though numbers can fluctuate, August has been the most active month over the past four years.
Between 2009 and 2012, Joplin residents have reported an average of 56.6 burglaries a month. Though the number of burglaries each month never dips below 30, the top three months for the past years are:
2009: 87 in May, 78 in August and 76 in June.
2010: 85 in August, 75 in October and 68 in December.
2011: 70 in May, 67 in June and 64 in August.
2012: 60 in September, 54 in June and 53 in January.
Source: Joplin Police Department