A year’s worth of theft and burglary data for the Payson area reveals Tuesday is one of the most likely days for a crime spree, but the information also offers homeowners tips on how not to become another statistic.
If you live on Highway 87 or west of it, lock up, because property crimes happen here more than anywhere in town.
More than 35 percent of property crimes occurred along the Beeline from Oct. 3, 2010 to Sept. 29, 2011 out of 365 reported thefts and burglaries.
Thefts, where thieves take property unlawfully, but without forceful entry, occur far more than burglaries, where a structure or vehicle is broken into.
Thieves are therefore taking things from unlocked vehicles and homes that are easy to get to quickly.
Authorities say if homeowners were more aware of locking their doors, closing their windows and putting away valuables, many of these opportunistic thefts would not happen.
Nevertheless, police cannot say why Tuesday is such a popular day for crime. In all, 17 percent of property crimes occurred on Tuesdays, still second for the week behind Fridays, where 18 percent of all property crimes occurred.
While it is no surprise crime peaks on Fridays, when the town is busier, officers have always been baffled why it also spikes earlier in the week as well.
“For years, our trends have followed this type of pattern where high activity times are not what you expect them to be,” said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.
“Officers come in to work on Tuesday and go ‘Oh, here we go, it is Tuesday’ and it is not just ordinary stuff we see, we have a lot of domestic violence and DUI calls.”
Engler said he cannot explain the rise in calls, but the department staffs extra officers on both days to cover the increase.
Police departments frequently use past occurrences to predict where future crimes could take place. In Payson, many thefts occur along Highway 87 and in the west part of town.
Only one home burglary happened in the gated-Chaparral Pines area east of town and only six occurred in the neighborhood northeast of the Highways 87 and 260 intersection.
Living west of the highway is like living on the “wrong side of the tracks.” With an industrial area mixed in with older homes in the south, the area is a hotbed of activity.
Even burglaries from vehicles occur more often here, with a string just off Frontier Street.
As more thefts occur, officers are seeing new patterns.
The areas around Bonita Street, Aero Drive, Main Street and practically every other street that connects with the Beeline south of Highway 260 is riddled with reported thefts and burglaries. Most often, these thefts are an act of opportunity and not a well-planned burglary.
“Key items (being taken) right now are electronics, tools, generators and computers, as well as scrap metal items,” Engler said.
For example, a toolbox sitting in the back of a pickup or a bicycle sitting out in front of a business are easy for thieves to snatch and sell.
Most thefts occur when a person leaves an item unlocked and unattended. Engler said people must lock up their homes and vehicles.
“Pay attention to your property and make sure it is put up and secure,” he said.
Who commits these impulsive crimes? Most are illegal drug users, he said.
Drug offenders commit most of the thefts and burglaries. An increase in these crimes signals a rise in illegal drug use, he said.
“A lot of perpetrators of these crimes are people that are involved in the criminal element anyway, so when an opportunity presents itself, obviously they take advantage of it and take that item.”
Because a person will often commit more than one theft, police frequently find tons of stolen items when they make an arrest.
“By the time we get them caught, they haven’t done just one burglary, they have been involved in this type of activity for a long time and they certainly aren’t just committing one offense and then behaving the rest of the time,” he said.
Unfortunately, even when police recover stolen goods, they often cannot tie them back to their owners.
Recording serial numbers from electronics and marking tools with initials or some unique number helps police prove stolen items and makes it easier to return them.
“We find a lot of stolen property, but it is hard because consumers do not record serial numbers,” he said.
“If they did, that would really benefit law enforcement considerably because time and time again we do search warrants for stolen property or drug search warrants and we know the property is stolen, but we have to be able to prove that.”
Record serial numbers, often found on the bottom of electronics, and keep them in a safe place.
Recently, police have seen a slight decrease in the number of burglaries, but are reluctant to say the trend will continue with the holidays approaching.
Traditionally, November and December are high theft and burglary months.
Having officers make regular patrols can cut down on these crimes, but officers often have little time to do more than answer calls.
Staffing shortages have made it harder to maintain regular patrol routes.
“We provide patrol to those areas, but it is difficult for us with our numbers right now,” he said.
“Often times our officers are stretched pretty thin on their time and call responses and any time we have proactive patrol time we try to focus on those areas that are high activity areas. That southwest quadrant does get more patrol time, but that patrol time is getting more and more limited as we get busier and busier.”
The department has been down several officers for years. Right now, the department has 27 officers, three short of its hiring goal.
With the staff he has, officers are busy answering all types of calls, with the call volume increasing every year.