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Preventative action deters burglary

Kelly Meehan | Wednesday, January 17, 2007

While several break-ins occurred at student residences over the month-long winter break, it’s not just luck that deterred more burglars, police said Tuesday.

Sergeant Lee Ross of the South Bend Police Department Crime Prevention Unit said students’ preventative measures caused a drop in burglaries at student residences from eight during the 2005-06 winter break to only three this year.

Ross said a record number of residents took part in the home watch program by alerting SBPD as to when their home or apartment would be vacant.

“When students alert us that they will be gone … they should get at least three [officer] patrol drive-bys each day,” Ross said.

Ross said it was crucial for students to inform the SBPD of their absence, because if they do not know the house is empty officers “might not go by the houses at all.”

Although Ross linked locked doors, closed blinds and functioning alarm systems to the decreased burglaries, not all students were immune to theft.

Two of the three break-ins occurred at Park Jefferson Apartments and the other was reported at 312 St. Peter Street, where Notre Dame senior Jeff Manship did not share the good fortune of his fellow off-campus residents.

Manship – who lost approximately $400 worth of electronics – said he “was kind of expecting it to happen.”

The criminals broke through a first floor window and took a television and DVD player from Manship’s second floor bedroom, along with stereo equipment and an Xbox from the first floor.

“It [stinks] knowing that some random creep was in my bedroom,” he said.

Although Manship said he regrets having the only bedroom door without a functioning lock, he is grateful that the criminals did not take more of their valuables.

Manship blames the robbery partially on the lack of an activated alarm system – something landlord Mark Kramer said is key to deterring criminals.

Of the approximately 150 residences Kramer rents to students, he said there’s been only one attempted and one successful break-in.

“The attempted break-in was on Notre Dame Ave.,” he said, “and they did not get anything because the police were there within two minutes.”

In addition to the SBPD, Kramer said he has a staff of off-duty police officers that patrols his residences during breaks.

Both SBPD and Kramer encourage students to make it seem like someone is home even when the house is vacant.

Many students made their homes seem “lived in” during break by leaving television sets and lights on, Kramer said.

Ross said students should try to take their valuables home with them, even if it seems inconvenient.

“If [students] just grab their laptop before they go, it will save them a lot of trouble,” he said.

Although students also had the option of storing boxed valuables in the Notre Dame Security/Police building as part of the ND Safe Lock program, this opportunity will not be available during spring or Easter breaks, said Assistant Director of NDSP Dave Chapman.

Despite the lessened number of break-ins during winter break, off-campus residents must remain vigilant during the school year, Ross said.

“There have been an average number of break-ins during the year,” he said. “[Students] leave doors open and unlocked when everyone is here and then burglaries happen.”

The number of burglaries in the city of South Bend has also risen, Ross said, so students should not think they are immune from theft.

Students should not stop setting alarms and locking doors, Kramer said.

“I would like to see zero percentage [of break-ins],” he said, “but obviously by our numbers [we] have done pretty well.”