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Students advised to take safety precautions, protect their property while away

Peter Ninneman | Friday, March 10, 2006

While students anticipate spring break, there are still concerns of safety and security looming over their carefree plans.

Over winter break, several off-campus student houses were burglarized and vandalized. Damage ranged from graffiti to stolen DVDs and PlayStation consoles, The Observer reported on Jan. 18.

Mark Kramer, owner of Kramer Properties, said houses are monitored while students are away on break, but not all day.

“We can’t watch the houses 24 hours a day, but we do try to keep an eye on the houses ourselves,” he said.

Kramer said that the best thing students can do to help keep their property safe is call the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) and ask them to watch their house.

At an informational meeting in February about a program similar to a neighborhood watch – which reportedly no students attended except for representatives from the Student Senate’s Committee for Community Relations – with morning, afternoon and evening patrols, one house may get three to six visits in a day, Sergeant Lee D. Ross of SBPD said.

Kramer also emphasized removing “tell-tale signs on porches and lawns that indicate that the house is student housing [as well as those that signal the students are on break].”

“If they can blend in with the neighborhood, that will decrease burglaries,” Kramer said.

He said beer kegs should not be left out, and “outdoor lighting is key.”

“We do all the outdoor lighting which we’ve always done, but the students need to make sure they lock all their doors and windows, turn on their alarms and leave on lights,” he said.

Kramer said for those students who have activated their alarm systems but forget to turn them on over break, the alarms will be turned on for them.

Brian Ferguson, an off-campus senior, dealt with vandal ism issues when his house was broken into over winter break.

“[This time,] all my roommates and I are taking our valuables and locking them up on campus and at other sites,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know how well the security system actually works. There was no physical evidence of any broken windows or anything. It’s kind of a mystery.”

On campus, Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) is responsible for keeping residence halls safe.

“We continue to maintain patrols of the campus and recognize that during the period of break there will be fewer students on campus so we’ll be particularly watchful,” said Phil Johnson, associate director of NDSP. “But we also realize that some students will be staying on campus and we encourage them and hall staff to be vigilant.”

Johnson also recommended that students should try not to leave valuables in their rooms over break and should lock the doors and windows before they leave. Johnson cited windows as an especially big concern.

Johnson also gave advice to students who were going to “typical spring break extravaganzas.”

“You certainly have to be mindful about what measures are appropriate for your destination. Some students go on service trips, but for those who go to places like Florida and Texas, don’t leave anybody behind, make sure you know where your friends are, take care of each other, monitor your alcohol and follow the law,” Johnson said.

“Students will meet people they don’t know, and they need to be careful about leaving their valuables out on the beach if they’re distracted by someone. They should be careful when going to places they’ve never been with people they’ve just met.”

Johnson also warned students that “the University looks at student conduct, no matter where the student is.”

“Our expectation of students to be good citizens follows them wherever they go,” Johnson said.