Spike in certain crimes linked to holiday season - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Spike in certain crimes linked to holiday season

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KANAWHA COUNTY, WV -

The holiday season signals a rise in certain crimes, according to Chief Brian Oxley with the Nitro Police Department.

Oxley said the number of thefts spike between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time ripe for "crimes of opportunity."

"They're going to go out and prey on people," Oxley said. "You have people out, they're purchasing large amounts of things."

The police chief emphasized criminals usually target shoppers, especially those who carry large amounts of cash, and leave big-ticket items in their vehicles.

Several robberies and thefts were reported in the past week, some even violent. Emergency dispatchers said a man robbed the 7-11 in Cross Lanes on Wednesday evening, wielding a gun. A shoplifter beat a manager at Marshall's in South Charleston Sunday when she asked for a receipt.

Clinical psychologist Dr. David Clayman claims little to no connection exists between violent crimes and the holiday season.

"Assault and robberies are just a continuation of what happens throughout the year," Clayman said. "We may see them more acutely because it's the holiday season and bad things aren't supposed to happen during the holiday season."

Clayman explained the season itself fails to incite violent behavior in people, but criminals will commit crimes of opportunity.

Denise Hatfield, a manager at Fruth Pharmacy, said shoplifting occurs most frequently between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Police arrested a woman for shoplifting at a Fruth Pharmacy in Huntington Nov. 19.

"You got some that will take Christmas gifts, candy, they'll take anything," Hatfield said. "They don't discriminate actually."

Fruth policy requires employees to greet every customer they encounter and remain vigilant of suspicious activity. Corporate officials said customer service acts as the best deterrent to crime. Hatfield said upon witnessing strange behavior, cashiers usually call for a manager over the store intercom. If possible, more than one person works the cashiers and the floor.

One shopper said she understands how the pressure of the holiday season can push people to steal. However, she felt that stress never justifies crime.

"Jobs are scarce, people don't have money to feed their families, buy presents for the kids," said Rose Robinson, of Charleston. "So yes, I think crime rates go up."

Jefferson Monroe, of Charleston, partly attributes the spike to culture.

"I think people just feel desperate," Monroe said. "They see everything going on and they want to be part of the holiday cheer."