Thousands of empty homes over the holidays — left by college students and other traveling Lawrencians — would seem to create the perfect atmosphere for would-be burglars.

“You would think you’d see a bump,” said Lawrence Police Sgt. Matt Sarna.

But an analysis of crime data for the past three years in Lawrence shows burglars are no more likely to strike over the holidays than during any other time of the year.

In the 12 days between Dec. 23 and Jan. 3 in 2007, 2008 and 2009, home burglaries averaged slightly less than one per day, consistent with the total yearly average of about 352.

Dr. Larry Hoover, a criminologist at Sam Houston State University who studies crime trends, said a variety of factors keep home invasions low over the holidays despite a surplus of empty homes.

The unknown is a key issue for burglars, Hoover said.

“Burglary is a calculated, economic crime,” he said.

Over the holidays it’s much more difficult for burglars to know when people will be in the home, as people are off work and additional relatives might be visiting.

Most burglars do everything they can to avoid encounters with people, Hoover said.

“People fear the burglar breaking in at 3 a.m.” when someone is home, he said. “That rarely happens.”

Hoover’s tips for preventing burglaries during the holidays include not leaving presents where they can be seen from the outside, keeping Christmas lights on, leaving one car home if possible, and having packages and mail picked up by neighbors.

Source: Shaun Hittle for

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