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Off-campus thefts target student vehicles

Kate Antonacci | Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Senior Matt Houser woke up Thursday morning to the news that a window on his car- sitting in the driveway of his Warrick Street house – had been smashed.

“I had a CD player, amplifier and subwoofer, totaling about a grand, stolen,” Houser said. “The window was broken, which cost $235 to replace.”

The break-in to Houser’s car was not the only one off-campus residents have seen in recent weeks. Numerous incidences of vehicle break-ins and theft have left many off-campus residents feeling frustrated and unsafe.

Senior Thomas McCall awoke this weekend to find his car window smashed and his golf clubs stolen from the trunk of his car, which was sitting in the driveway of his house on a quiet area of Juniper Road.

“They didn’t take any of the electronic equipment,” said McCall, who lives on Juniper Road near Welworth Street and Whitefield Road. “They only took my golf clubs.”

McCall said he lives in a residential area, and his neighbors said such break-ins “do not usually happen” on their street. The South Bend Police Department told McCall a similar break-in – where only golf clubs were taken – happened the same night.

And police say it will probably happen again.

When Houser reported his incident to the South Bend Police Department, officers told him that “they would hit again during home football games, before Christmas, after Christmas and then again at the end of the year.”

“[The police officer] recommended I not keep anything of value in my car and just leave the doors unlocked,” Houser said, adding that his roommates’ unlocked car was next to his and was untouched.

In an e-mail to Oakhill Condominiums residents Monday, property manager Sherry Scott warned that “the ND school season is upon us and the local ND perimeter is overcome with a rash of vehicle break-ins.”

Two cars were broken into at the South Bend Avenue complex Thursday, and one car was broken into Sunday morning.

Two cars at Stadium Club Condominiums on Bulla Road were broken into last week, compelling site manager Susan Miller to warn residents about leaving anything of value in their cars.

“If you see anyone that looks like they do not belong here, please call 911 and ask for the Sheriff’s Department,” Miller said in an Aug. 24 e-mail to residents.

The St. Joseph County Sheriff is handling the case, and there are currently no suspects, said Rodney Ludwig, director of residential property management for Real Estate Management Corporation, which manages Stadium Club Condominiums.

Many property managers have told residents these types of break-ins happen around campus at the beginning of every school year.

“The students return and don’t completely unpack their cars, making it very tempting for the criminal element,” Ludwig said.

Some students have been in talks with landlords to find ways to keep cars safer at off-campus residences.

“The most important thing we do is to advise our students to remove all valuables from their cars and be aware of any suspicious activity,” Ludwig said. “Of course, we advise them to contact the Sheriff if they notice any suspicious activity. If all the students look out for each other, there should be very few problems.”

Ludwig said he is in the process now of trying to assign more security to the Stadium Club property.

Senior Caitlin Mahoney sent out an e-mail to fellow Stadium Club residents asking them if they would like to participate in a neighborhood watch program after she was approached by a St. Joseph County Police Officer last week following the break-ins.

“He asked me if there was some way to get the residents together to discuss safety and learn to recognize suspicious acts in order to prevent future break-ins,” Mahoney wrote in an Aug. 28 e-mail.

The officer said he was willing to put together a program for residents if they were interested, Mahoney said.

Oakhill residents were also approached with the idea of continuing with a neighborhood watch program.

“The last meeting we had only had a handful of residents attend. We need more interest in keeping our neighborhood safe from intruders,” Scott wrote in her e-mail. “The Board of Directors and I will be viewing a working surveillance system to see if it is a feasible investment for Oakhill at around $20,000.”