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Locked doors, alarm systems fail to stop winter break thefts

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Several off-campus houses occupied by Notre Dame students were burglarized or vandalized during Christmas break in a series of crimes that students said caused serious damage to their homes.

Ten students living at 825 East Washington St. estimated the damage to their 10-bedroom house at about $10,000. Burglars entered the house Dec. 27, stealing everything from DVDs and Playstation consoles to food and a bed comforter, the occupants said. Desktop computers and television sets were spared.

Senior John Noell, who lives at the house, said he and his roommates locked every window and door before leaving for break.

“But we have big windows and doors that aren’t sturdy and locking your room isn’t good either [because] those can get kicked easily, too,” Noell said. “I was prepared [against burglary], but I wasn’t surprised [our house was broken into].”

Nearly every door of the house was broken down – including the 10 bedroom doors – all of which were locked.

The tenants didn’t find out about the robbery until one of the roommates, who lives in Granger, drove by the house and realized what had happened.

The damage was not as severe at 821 East Washington St., where residents said the burglars were caught in the middle of their stealing spree, thanks to a friend who drove by the house and noticed people inside. The burglary was reported on Dec. 28.

“The house is equipped with an alarm, which apparently was not triggered during the break-in,” said one of the residents, a male senior who wished to remain anonymous. “The speaker for the alarm was ripped out of the wall. We are frustrated that the alarm did not go off, but are very thankful that our friend was in the area during the time of the burglary.”

The South Bend Police Department did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Mark Kramer, who owns both houses on Washington Street, said alarm systems are essential to preventing break-ins. He said he sent out an e-mail to all his tenants before the holiday encouraging them to take special precautions to ensure that their houses were safe.

Despite his instructions, this year’s crimes were the worst he’s ever seen.

“That’s the problem … this is the prime time that something is going to happen, but we don’t have a lot of break-ins,” Kramer said. “In all my years of doing this I can count them on one hand.”

Kramer said every house he owns has an alarm system, but it’s up to the tenants to make sure it’s connected and working properly.

A break-in was also reported at 524 Corby St. on Dec. 28, where vandals splattered walls with profane graffiti – causing between $500-$1,000 worth of damage, resident Ray Jarosz said.

The vandals broke through a window on the second floor using a futon from a neighbor’s porch.

“[There was] writing on pictures and on walls, [and also] feces on a chair,” said James Yesnik, who also lives in the house.

The house’s alarm system was not connected, allowing the vandals to cause serious damage without the threat of getting caught. The only item stolen was an old Notre Dame I.D card.