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Leaders address winter break safety

Adriana Pratt | Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping students and their belongings safe before and during winter break are priorities for student government, student body president Patrick McCormick said Wednesday at the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) meeting.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure students aren’t soft targets,” McCormick said.

Detective Sgt. Dominic Zultanski of theSouth Bend Police Department (SBPD)said police have been working with students to prevent crime and have had some recent success.

“In the area alone just in the past three weeks, midnight patrol and afternoon patrol actually have caught two different guys that we thought had been pretty active in burglaries,” Zultanski said. “We’re doing what we can to keep them in jail, finding more cases.”

As the holiday season hits its stride and parties abound before finals, Zultanski said to watch out for unknown people who claim they are cleaning up yards after parties or shoveling driveways.

“What they’re actually doing is they’re just casing places out,” Zultanski said. “You’re going to see it now especially because of the cold months after parties, that doors are left unlocked because friends leave and people go to bed.

“You have the people coming over to clean up the yards and the cups and what they’re doing is they’re actually knocking on the door to see if anybody comes to the door and that’s when you’re going to have a lot of your thefts — when they walk in and steal the laptops, right when people are sleeping on the couch.”

If a situation arises where unknown persons knock on students’ doors or offer to clean their yards, Zultanksi suggested calling police officers to patrol the area to prevent potential theft.

Zultanski also suggested noting the serial numbers on personal belongings so police officers can track them if stolen.

Officer Scott Ruszkowski, also with the SBPD, said that even just marking belongings with the last four digits of a phone number in permanent marker could help police track and recover the items. He also suggested taking pictures of the items with camera phones.

“You can show it to the officer when he or she arrives to take a report and then it gives Dominic and the other burglary guys something to look at,” Ruszkowski said.

Once students leave South Bend for break, local community officials suggested leaving blinds closed, valuable possessions locked in bedrooms and house alarms on to prevent theft.  Ruszkowski suggested putting timers on lights and televisions to give the illusion that residents are around.

“People think, ‘Oh my gosh. Somebody’s home,’ because there’s a TV on,” Ruszkowski said. “Believe it or not, that’s more huge than it isn’t.”

Ruszkowski also recommended students ask friends or neighbors to shovel their sidewalks and driveways over break to make it look like people are home.

“While you’re gone, if you can make arrangements to have your sidewalk or driveway plowed or shoveled to give at least the appearance that somebody is still there … it looks like somebody’s staying there,” Ruszkowski said. “I know it seems trivial, but believe it or not, that’s a big issue.”

McCormick thanked the police officials for their suggestions and noted how valuable their support has been.

“We’re just so grateful on the student side for the partnership that has been built in the sense that we can be partners in the effort to try to keep the community safe,” McCormick said.

Notre Dame will also provide free storage options for students who want to leave their valuable possessions on campus over break, McCormick said.

“[NDSP’s] Sergeant Keri Shibata is coordinating that, so we’re going to be in touch with the students before the break just making recommendations just to let people know that there is actually a safe room available on campus free of charge,” McCormick said.