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All is not calm

For the Medford Police Department, the holiday season comes with a special gift delivered each year on or about Thanksgiving.

This gift, however, is one the department would just as soon send back unopened.

Each year in Medford the crime rate spikes around the holidays. The period from Black Friday to New Year's Day is the busiest two-month span in the police calendar.

Thanks, Santa.

Medford police Officer Quint Oller spent a good chunk of a busy Friday night investigating a burglary and returning the stolen items to the owner.

Oller, who has worked in departments in Arizona and a small coastal agency in Oregon before joining Medford police, said the city is not alone in holiday shenanigans.

"Every place I've worked gets busier around the holidays," Oller said. "More people are drinking who don't normally drink. After their first drink, their judgment is the first thing to go."

Officers normally see an uptick in fights and drunken disturbances during the holidays, as visitors pour into town to have a good time.

Sometimes, these fights are domestic disputes between relatives visiting each other from out of the area. Once the beer or wine gets flowing, old disputes begin to boil over. Next thing you know, there's a brawl breaking out in front of the Christmas tree.

"We do see relatives getting into fights more often during the Christmas season," Oller said.

Other holiday-related crimes revolve around the mass shopping that erupts this time of year.

Shoppers often leave presents in cars, which become a target for low-level criminals looking to snatch some merchandise to sell. Shoplifting also increases, which sends officers to stores across the city to write theft tickets.

This holiday season will build on an already record-breaking crime year for Medford.

Medford police Chief Tim George said serious crimes are well above last year's numbers, which themselves broke records.

"We are seeing a troubling increase in serious crimes such as assaults," George said. "We don't know why there is so much assaultive behavior going on, but there is and we are trying to deal with it."

So far, assault reports have ticked up 23 percent over last year. There have been 40 more aggravated assaults, which often involve serious attacks and injuries, in 2012 than in 2011.

In addition, burglaries have spiked 22 percent above last year's reports, with 438 home and business break-ins occurring so far this year.

All of these numbers figure to climb higher over the next month, as the season lurches toward New Year's Eve.

"Whenever you get in your patrol car, you're computer is always stacked with calls this time of year," Oller said. "You have to go to fights, shoplifts, reckless and drunk drivers. You name it."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Medford Police Officer Quint Oller holds a stolen laptop he recovered from a burglary Friday evening in an alley off of North Riverside Avenue in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore