Police, landlords and victims say students can take action to deter burglars

Communication and planning can save students leaving for winter break.

Kaitlin Walker

Houses left empty over winter break may be vulnerable to rising burglaries in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood

Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 12 this year, there were 37 burglaries in the neighborhood âÄìâÄì up from 28 burglaries during the same period last year, said Minneapolis crime prevention specialist Nick Juarez.

Burglaries traditionally drop off during the winter, Juarez said, and burglaries in Southeast Como are decreasing.

But unlocked windows and doors are a contributing factor to the mounting burglaries affecting Marcy-Holmes, he said.

âÄúAnd some of the reports are starting to point out that the window locks donâÄôt work or they donâÄôt lock, which seems to be happening especially with some of the older homes,âÄù Juarez said.

Most University of Minnesota students are renters, Juarez said. And about 88 percent of houses in the Marcy-Holmes area are rentals, according to a report by the UniversityâÄôs Student Neighborhood Liaisons.

âÄúHouses that look vacant are going to be broken into,âÄù said Tim Harmsen, landlord and owner of Dinkytown Rentals. Many of HarmsenâÄôs properties are in Marcy-Holmes.

At least five houses were burglarized this year over Thanksgiving break while the student residents were gone.

Callie Rose said she thinks whoever broke into her house knew students would be gone during the break.

Rose, a family social sciences senior, lost more than $550 in cash after a suspect entered her home through an unlocked window on the night before Thanksgiving.

Still feeling shaken from the intrusion, Rose said she and her roommates leave both the front and back outside lights on at all times and lock every window.

âÄúKeep your lights on,âÄù Rose said. âÄúI know the energy bill will go up, but itâÄôs better than having stuff stolen from you.âÄù

Harmsen said students should leave at least one light on in their house if they plan on leaving during the break, as well as leaving a radio on to deter potential criminals scoping out the neighborhoods.

âÄúTheyâÄôve got to leave some lights on,âÄù Harmsen said. âÄúI know they want to save money on electricity, but just a bulb on in the living room will mean the world.âÄù

Communicating with landlords is also key. He said he can easily keep an eye out for suspicious activity if residents let him know theyâÄôll be gone.

âÄúI try to watch everything as much as possible, but if they give me a heads up itâÄôs only going to save everybody money,âÄù Harmsen said.

Not every landlord will be as willing to help as Harmsen, said Kendre Turonie, coordinator of the Student Neighborhood Liaison program. She suggests students get to know their neighbors and let them know if they leave for break.

âÄúIf [students] have homeowners near them, we encourage them to let them know when theyâÄôre planning to be gone so in case there is some activity they would know that shouldnâÄôt be happening,âÄù Turonie said.

Turonie said light timers are a good tool to make it look like someone is home, by setting it to turn on and off at certain times.

Elizabeth Barmore, a nursing student, said she and her roommates will be setting up light timers for break after her house was burglarized over Thanksgiving weekend.

Between 12:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, a suspect broke into BarmoreâÄôs house on Eighth Street Southeast and stole two laptops, two wallets and a car using the keys found inside.

She said the suspect used a spare key, which wasnâÄôt well hidden, and that she and her roommates have decided to get rid of it.

Juarez said even students staying through break should be diligent about keeping lights on and locking doors and windows.

He also suggested students keep shades drawn and to keep valuables out of sight.

Hardware stores sell window pins and locks, but students who are worried about faulty locks should bring it up with their landlords, Juarez said.

After Nate MoenâÄôs house was broken into Saturday, he said he and his roommates have been diligent about locking their doors.

Moen, an accounting major who works outside the editorial division at the Minnesota Daily, said they are also talking with their landlord about getting better locks and windows.

 The break-in gave Moen perspective on whatâÄôs important when looking for an apartment or house.

âÄúLooking for an apartment next year, itâÄôs not just about the area, but the quality of the locks,âÄù Moen said. âÄúYou have to take that into consideration.âÄù