Senior Erin McNeill knew something was wrong when she walked downstairs at midnight in her off-campus house and noticed the screen on her open window was also open.
“I still wasn’t freaked out, so I walked back upstairs and asked if anyone had opened the screen,” she said.
McNeill was home with her three roommates and a roommate’s boyfriend, senior Kevin Dacey, on Sept. 12, working upstairs on homework when someone entered through a downstairs window, stealing an iPod and two sets of speakers.
McNeill said Dacey went downstairs to check on things.
“Kevin came downstairs and grabbed a ski pole,” McNeill said. “He walked into our dining room, where we have a cabinet and saw a guy crouched in all black.”
She said Dacey then came back upstairs and warned the girls to call the police and lock themselves in their room. While upstairs they heard the back door slam as the burglar left the home.
“The police showed up really quickly,” she said. “I would say it took 30 seconds. We’re very impressed with the police response.”
This robbery hasn’t been an isolated incident. According to police reports sent by the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) and compiled by Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), there have been six crimes involving burglary or home invasion of off-campus student housing, as well as one crime of robbery of a student, since the school year began.
Sergeant Pat Hechlinski of the SBPD Crime Prevention Unit said he compiles these reports for NDSP, searching through police reports daily and pulling the ones he believes involve students. He then speaks with NDSP Crime Prevention Officer Keri Kei Shibata, who confirms whether the victims are students.
“What we try to do is keep [off-campus students] as informed as best as possible of what’s happening to students,” Hechlinski said.
He said there is one beat car patrolling the area near campus, as well as four beat cars patrolling the northeast side of South Bend. He said the only crimes against students the SBPD is aware of are the ones taking place within the city limits.
“If students are living off-campus, they need to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.
Hechlinski said he recommends students introduce themselves to their neighbors, as well as keeping doors locked while at home and using porch lights at night. He also recommended students taking advantage of the off-campus student website, offcampus.nd.edu, which has a list of “Crime Alerts” and maps showing crime locations.
He also said when students get new, larger electronics like laptops or large televisions, they should not lay the packaging outside.
“We do have people that shop from the curb,” he said. “If they see you have that there, they don’t have to come up to your house to know you got a new TV.”
Students should put themselves in the mindset of criminals, Hechlinski said. Students should walk around outside of their housing, checking to see if any valuables are visible from the windows and to change the location of items if they are.
Local off-campus housing owners are taking security into account, Mike Kramer, owner of Kramer Properties, said. McNeill and her roommates rent from Kramer.
“We try to take a proactive approach,” he said.
Kramer properties have security systems installed as well as patrolling security from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. He said students should also be taking an active approach to security.
“Part of preventing the problem is the residents need to take precaution,” he said.
McNeill said Kramer helped them after the burglary.
“He fixed our fence and put up motion sensor lights,” she said. “We were also very impressed by how he responded very quickly.”
Senior Claire Cotter, one of McNeill’s roommates, said Kramer also installed peepholes into doors and fixed shutters on windows.
Kristie Nozykowski, regional properties manager for Clover Ridge and Clover Village, said she was not aware of any burglaries happening on their properties, although there have been several bicycle thefts.
“[Residents] can talk to us if anything happens, and we can get involved with the police,” she said.
Security measures in the properties include security alarms and systems, as well as added security during football weekends, Nozykowski said.
McNeill said they were lucky to have so little taken and to be left unharmed.
“Now we think [the burglar] was just a kid,” senior Katie Meunier, one of McNeill’s roommates, said. “At the same time, we felt the security was missing.”
The residents found a screen open Sunday — luckily, McNeill said, the window was locked.
“We’ll be more cautious from now on, that’s for sure,” Cotter said.