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Student thwarts burglary

Kelly Meehan and Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A potential burglary attempt in a student house at 113 North Saint Peter’s St. was thwarted on the first day of this year’s fall break when a neighbor spotted a man entering the house through an unlocked window and called the police.

Saint Mary’s senior Rose Zeidler was talking to a friend on the phone in her kitchen Oct. 13 around 10 p.m. when she saw a man attempting to enter her neighbor’s house. She said she quickly hung up the phone and called the police.

“While I was on the phone with the police he managed to shimmy open the window and find a bucket to get into the house,” Zeidler said.

She didn’t get good look at his face, but said he about a 5-foot-8 black man, with close cut hair, jeans and a leather jacket. The police sirens must have scared off the intruder, Zeidler said, because she said she heard the man leave the house and run away.

One of the house residents, Notre Dame senior Ryan Keckley said another neighbor called him to tell him police were surrounding his house. He said it appeared the intruder tried to take a stereo receiver from inside the house, since this was on the floor when he came home. Nothing appeared to be missing, he said.

This year’s break as a whole had few reported robberies at popular student housing complexes like Clover Ridge, Turtle Creek and Lafayette Apartments, perhaps due to local landlords’ preventative actions.

Kramer Properties owner Mark Kramer said while none of his homes or apartment complexes (Lafayette Apartment and Notre Dame Apartments) were broken into, it is crucial to take a “proactive approach” and realize “anything can happen anywhere at any time.”

Kramer said it was “not unusual” that very few break-ins occurred during break.

To help deter potential crimes, Kramer Properties’ maintenance team patrols its properties daily and has hired off-duty Mishawaka police officers to serve as additional security at Lafayette Apartments, he said.

“The apartment complexes usually are the ones that get hit first,” Kramer said.

As an additional step to prevent potential criminal activity at apartment complexes, Clover Ridge Apartments installed new deadbolts on all apartment doors, Leasing Agent Lynn Buckley said.

Although two vehicle break-ins at Clover Ridge were reported earlier in the year, Buckley said students who left their vehicles in their parking lot during break had “no problems.”

“We ask that residents don’t leave anything on their seats and lock their doors,” Buckley said.

Kramer said his tenants who left their vehicles behind did not experience any problems, and believes cars parked near homes or apartments help deter crime.

“[There are] not as many cars as there would be when school is in session,” he said. “[Leaving a car] helps because nobody knows if [residents] are home or not.”

Kramer said he also asks South Bend Police to increase patrols in student residential areas during break and reminds students to secure their homes or apartments before they depart.

Keckley said he figured a break-in was inevitable. He and his roommates gave the thief an opportunity when they failed to lock all their doors and windows before they left, Keckley said.

“It was our fault,” he said. “We should [have] know better than to leave a window unlocked, especially when we are gone for fall break.”

The unsuccessful burglary was a warning to secure the house before they leave, Keckley said.

Kramer said the key to crime prevention is the ability “to disguise the fact that they have a student house. … [It] should look like a home their mother and father live in.”

Students need to make sure they do not have “kegs … [and] couches on their porch or Notre Dame signs and banners hanging from their house,” he said.

Kramer said he also stresses that his tenants lock their doors and windows, set their alarms and close their blinds.

Greg Anderson of Anderson ND Rentals was unaware a break-in had occurred at one of his houses on North St. Peter’s Street. He said break-ins at his houses are very rare, since each one comes equipped with a security system. When he rents to students, he gives them an information packet describing how the system works and listing the number to call to turn it on.

“All they have to do is get it hooked up and running,” Anderson said. “But if they don’t bother to call the company and get it set up, then it won’t do anything.”

Senior Will Jourdan, another resident of 113 St. Peter’s St., said he thinks he and his roommates will now look into setting up their alarm system.

Kramer encouraged students to place all electronics into a locked bedroom before they leave their home for a long period of time.

“In [an alarmed] house with six or seven bedrooms … [thieves] don’t have time to look for electronics, and by the time they get into the locked bedroom the police come.”

Kramer said all of his homes come with ADT alarms and when they are set off “the South Bend Police Department is very responsive, and … will arrive within minutes.”

During future breaks, senior Brian Hedges, one of Keckley and Jourdan’s roommates, said the roommates may take extra precautions and store their valuable electronics at Keckley’s family’s nearby house.

While fall breaks’ duration is minimal compared to students’ month long winter break, property managers like Turtle Creek Apartments community manager Francie Schmuhl said they are still prepared to ensure student “safety and security.”

Like many student-populated complexes, Turtle Creek has two officers that live on site, and although apartments do not have alarms, Schmuhl said. “Students are encouraged to lock doors and windows before they leave,” she said.

“For Christmas break we ask [that] students move all valuables out of the way so you cannot see [them] through the window,” she said. “They should close blinds, lock up and move anything of great value out of plain sight.”

The residents of 113 North St. Peter’s Street have been careful to keep all their doors and windows locked since the incident. But Hedges said the break-in still has him unnerved.

“I haven’t really felt safe in here since it happened,” he said.

After she witnessed a man break into her neighbors’ house, Zeidler says she feels a lot less safe, even though she and her roommates have an alarm and keep the blinds down and doors and windows locked.

“It is apparent that there are people watching our houses and they know when our breaks are,” Zeidler said.

But the nearby break-in hasn’t changed her desire to live at her off-campus house.

“It worries me … but it’s not like I wouldn’t live here because of it.”