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Vigilance advised off campus

Eva Binda | Wednesday, December 6, 2006

As students prepare for finals and look forward to a month away from school, many are also taking preventive security measures to keep their property safe over break.

This year, several break-ins of off-campus cars and houses over the fall and Thanksgiving breaks have already been reported – and the Christmas holiday is usually the time when most break-ins occur, according to the South Bend Police Department.

On Dec. 4, Notre Dame Security/Police sent an e-mail to the Notre Dame student body with advice about security before and during break.

“We often experience an increase in thefts just before breaks, especially from Library study areas and the dining halls,” the e-mail read.

Students were encouraged to participate in bike storage, follow the guidelines for keeping cars in D2 South “Lock-Up” and take advantage of Christmas Break storage.

“The first thing is the storage program. [Students,] bring over [to NDSP] anything valuable that could be stolen that you’re not bringing home,” said Cappy Gagnon, manager of event security and student employment at NDSP.

Students who reside off campus face increased security problems, and are most often the victims of theft.

During Thanksgiving break, senior Mike Hennig and his roommate, who live on Washington Street, were the victims of burglary.

“We got home and our door had been broken open. There was dirt on the floor. Both of our computers, my printer, stereo, TV… it was all gone,” Hennig said.

Though they called the police and filed a report, nothing has been recovered and they have heard nothing from the police.

“This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened. We’ve had five or six cars broken into this semester,” Hennig said. “iPods, stereos … they’ve all been stolen. We’ve called the police and sometimes they don’t even send somebody. They just take the report over the phone.”

Hennig did mention that his home security alarm was malfunctioning and that it has since been fixed.

“Our neighbors had a security alarm and were not broken into,” he said. “It’s required to have a security alarm or you’re going to get robbed.”

Gagnon said he believes there are several reasons why off-campus students are so vulnerable to break-ins – one of which is the mindset of Notre Dame students.

“Truthfully, our students are very trusting, which is great, but it’s not a good thing out in the cruel world,” Gagnon said. “When you live on campus, you don’t see the impact of crime outside of campus. When you move off campus, you might not be prepared.”

The neighborhoods that students live in also attribute to their vulnerability.

“Unfortunately our students live in neighborhoods at risk, due to the low rent,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon said burglars, who often target young people, know which homes student residences and when those students will be away. He said students should “maintain good relations with neighbors” and let them know when the house will be empty so they can report anything suspicious to the police. Students should also let their landlord know when they are leaving and returning.

Students can also call the SBPD to request a “vacation home watch” while they’re away, Gagnon added.

He also suggested that students make sure doors are dead-bolted, windows are locked and there is no shrubbery blocking the windows where burglars could hide. It is also a good idea to buy an inexpensive timer light, he said. Anything that makes the house look occupied lessens the chance of a break-in.

If students have any questions, they should call NDSP at (574) 631-5555. The South Bend Police Department did not return calls for comment.