Burglaries down on campus, up in surrounding areas

A University police official said attentive students accounted for the decrease.

by Elizabeth Cook

On April 3, Nick Schrag found his house had been burglarized.

This was the second time in four weeks his Seventh Street Southeast home, which he and four roommates share, was burglarized.

Schrag’s situation hints at a growing burglary problem in University-area neighborhoods.

Schrag, a mechanical engineering sophomore, said his home first was burglarized about four weeks ago. He and his roommates left the house about 8:30 p.m. and returned 15 minutes later because they forgot something.

When they walked in the house they saw someone who jumped out the window with a laptop and some DVDs, Schrag said.

The second time was the afternoon of April 3.

Schrag said his roommate was in the basement when someone came in the house, went upstairs and took two Xboxes, a PlayStation 2 and about 100 video games and DVDs.

While burglaries in Schrag’s neighborhood, Marcy-Holmes, as well as Southeast Como and Prospect Park, have increased, University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said burglaries on campus have decreased.

Johnson said the reason burglaries have decreased significantly, along with theft, is that students are paying more attention.

“It’s better communication and awareness on the part of our students,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the Prospect Park area, burglaries have increased 21 percent from 2004 to 2005.

Joe Ring, president of the Prospect Park East River Road Association, said having so much student housing in the area – which he referred to as “fertile ground for criminals and thieves” – has increased crime for the entire neighborhood.

The issue this brings with it, aside from students being victims of crimes, is that the criminals start where the students are and then move into the rest of Prospect Park, he said.

“If they can’t find an easy target,” Ring said, “they move out into other areas of the community.

Another way the neighborhood is made an easy target for crimes like burglary is that more and more parents are buying single-family homes in the neighborhood and then letting their children stay there while going to school, he said.

This increases the density of students and makes the area even more attractive to criminals, Ring said.

James De Sota, the neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said neighbors have not been complaining about an increase in burglaries.

Residents seem most concerned about the violent nature of some crimes, such as armed robberies.

De Sota said the number of rental properties makes it harder to start block clubs, which would give residents the ability to get to know one another better and distribute crime information.

Carol Oosterhuis, crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct, said there are a few things students and residents can do to help prevent break-ins.

One option is to call Oosterhuis and request a premises survey, where she will come and see where a home needs to be better protected and give advice about preventing victimization.

People also should lock their doors, even if a roommate is home, Oosterhuis said.

In some of the homes, many students live together, constantly coming in and out. In this case, a roommate might think a roommate is coming home, when it’s actually an intruder, Oosterhuis said.

Residents also should check the screws in the door locks, she said. The lock and the screw basically hold the door on; if the screws are short it is easier to kick in the door.

While students or landlords might think of installing a security system, Tom Lincoln, volunteer chairman of the safety and livability committee for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said thieves still attempt to break in to homes with alarms.

Lincoln also said criminals are becoming bolder, sometimes kicking in doors to enter homes.

Valerie Wurster, inspector for the 2nd Precinct, did not return phone calls.