The theft and burglary crime rates are up in Newton, and officials are citing the sluggish economy.

The theft and burglary crime rates are up in Newton, and officials are citing the sluggish economy.

Lt. T. Walton of the Newton Police Department said burglaries, including aggravated burglaries, are up from 33 in first four months of 2007 to 49 during the same time period this year, a 48 percent increase.

In the first four months of 2007, 147 cases of theft were reported, and this year to date 220 theft cases have been reported, an almost 50 percent increase.

Four instances of aggravated burglary were reported within the last week, none of which were believed to be related.

“It is not a good sign,” he said.

“There is a direct correlation between this and the economy,” Walton said. “As we see this go and see higher prices, I think we are in for more burglaries and thefts.”

Harvey County Sheriff A.J. Wuthnow said the theft rate in the county was up about 2 percent, but the burglary rate was staying consistent.

He said the department has increased patrols, especially in the areas that have been the targets of thefts.

The sheriff’s department offers a free house check service through its senior patrol for people who are on vacation.

Wuthnow strongly urged people to take advantage of the service.

Forms are available at the sheriff’s office.

The first of the recent burglaries in the city happened May 23 with a house in the 1600 block of Berry being hit for the second time in two weeks, Walton said.

The residents of the home came home and heard someone in the basement.

The residents fled the house and called 911. When police arrived, the suspect or suspects had fled the scene, Walton said.

Jewelry and movies were stolen, and damage was done to the house for a total estimated loss of about $1,400.

There are no suspects in that case. It is under investigation.

On Sunday in the 300 block of West Fifth, a woman reported a man broke down the door to her home and threatened her.

That case also is under investigation.

Two cases of aggravated burglary were reported Tuesday.

A man allegedly entered the 500 block of Cherry Lane and threatened the resident with a knife. The suspect then punched the victim in the case. Nothing was taken from the house.

Police have a suspect in the case, but no arrest has been made. The case in under investigation.

In the final case, a woman was in her apartment in the 1200 block of East Broadway when some broken in, stole a wallet and narcotic medication.

Loss was estimated at $40.

Police have a suspect in the case. It too is under investigation.

None of the cases are believed to be related.

Walton suggested several tips to help protect family and property.

Always keep your windows locked and garage door closed, he said.

In many newer homes, the garage is connected to the home by a door, which may be easily breached by a burglar.

Keep your car doors locked, he said. Many of the burglaries reported thus far this year are vehicle burglaries. Most of those involved cars which were not locked, Walton said.

And investing a little money in keeping your valuables safe won’t hurt, he said.

“We would certainly like to see more alarm systems in homes,” he said.

Like Walton, Wuthnow also urged residents to take precautions with their homes and vehicles.

“We don’t live in the 50’s anymore,” he said. “You can’t leave your door unlocked. You can’t leave you car unlocked with the keys in it. It encourages thieves.”

Wuthnow also suggested using outside lighting and leaving lights on inside your home at night to discourage thieves.