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Winter offers a reprieve from some crime in Manchester, statistics show

MANCHESTER — There is an upside to all this snow and cold, judging by Manchester Police Department crime statistics. Some crimes decrease, at least for a while.

While there are numerous factors that result in crime — socioeconomics, prevalence of suitable targets, motivation — according to Officer Matthew Barter, of the Crime Analysis Unit, weather does have an effect.

Looking back at three years of data, Barter said violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, as well as property crimes, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson, do tend to decrease in January and February. But, he said, the numbers start to creep back up as the spring and summer months arrive.

“This appears to be true for 2014 thus far,” he said.

The decrease can be attributed to several reasons, he said. When it’s cold, people are less likely to leave doors and windows open or unlocked and are home more often, which can discourage burglars.

Tough getaways

Also, try to imagine running away from a barking, snapping police dog while tromping through a foot of snow while wearing a heavy coat and carrying a television.

“The winter months also create challenges for would-be criminals,” Barter said. “Snow and slippery conditions can make getaway difficult.”

And snow tends to leave telltale signs. A hint: What is left behind from the crunching sound your feet are making in the snow? A burglar might as well leave a sign reading “I’m over here! Come get me!”

“Snow allows for footprints and tracks to be left behind, thus creating evidence that could lead to capture,” Barter said.

Last month, police found two teens — who they said had sprayed paint on a building — hiding behind a snowbank after tracking their footprints in the snow.

Barter said burglaries haven’t moved much, tracking along last year’s total, but robberies are down so far in this new year, with the January 2014 total down 50 percent from the January 2013 figure.

Rising larceny rate

But last year, robberies increased sharply in the last three months of the year, with businesses, especially convenience stores, the prime targets.

Larcenies, which include all kinds of thefts — from shoplifting items and then returning them for a gift card, selling a stolen item to a pawn shop, stealing from the petty cash drawer — were up in January, compared to last year, but still under the 2012 level.

Barter concedes winter does offer one benefit for criminals. Bulky clothing can make it easier to conceal identity or contraband.

An increasing driver of crime is drugs.

In Manchester, as in many other cities and towns, the increase in heroin addiction is driving much of the theft/burglary/robbery rate. Heroin may be cheaper than Oxycodone and some other drugs, but it becomes expensive to maintain an addiction that is very hard to break.

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