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WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WZZM) -- New numbers from the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department show a significant drop in property crimes this winter compared to last year and authorities believe the extreme cold is playing a role.

One example is on Butternut Drive, where there were seven breaking and entering incidents last winter, but only two incidents during the same time period this year.

"We'd have to guesstimate and say the weather is playing a significant role," says Captain Lee Hoeksema with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

Captain Hoeksema showed WZZM 13 the same drop in crime across Ottawa County, specifically for property related incidents. The numbers show 174 vandalism cases from December to February 7th of last winter, compared to 134 vandalism cases during the same time period this year, which is a 23% decrease.

Larcenies dropped from 400 last winter to 277 this year, which is a drop of 31%. Breaking and entering incidents went from 153 last winter to 93 this year, which is a decrease of 39%. Last winter had 727 total property related crimes, compared to 504 this year, which is a drop of 31% overall.

"From a person that's been going out and breaking into cars and stuff and it's 20 below wind chill, you're not spending a lot of time outdoors doing these kind of things," says Captain Hoeksema.

While some types of crimes have decreased this winter, the overall number of calls to police has increased, mainly because of traffic incidents.

"We've had over 1,000 calls that are accident related," says Captain Hoeksema.

WZZM 13 asked Captain Hoeksema how the number of traffic calls are impacting other investigations.

"The deputies and the detective bureau continue to do their investigations, but are they spending as much time looking into them?, it's probably been reduced because of the fact that we're dealing a lot more with traffic related issues," says Captain Hoeksema.

Despite the drop in crime, Captain Hoeksema says people should not let their guard down, by doing things like leaving their car alone running.

"Things still happen and it's based on opportunity," says Captain Hoeksema.

The Ottawa County Sheriff's Department says other crimes that usually happen inside the home, such as domestic abuse or assault, have remained steady.

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