Burglaries plague St. Paul campus housing complex

Since February, there have been five incidents in Commonwealth Terrace.

Justin Horwath

The University Police Department issued a crime alert May 14 after the fifth burglary in a St. Paul campus housing complex since February.

The burglaries happened during the night in Commonwealth Terrace, a cooperative that houses University students with families.

On all five occasions, one or more intruders have entered while residents were sleeping, typically by cutting screens in windows or doors of the two-floor units that curl around small, open fields.

There was also a break-in attempt May 19 in the same area. According to the police report, a person called officers, citing a cut screen on the window and small pry marks on the door to a laundry room. Police found nothing missing.

No one has been injured, and the perpetrator(s), who are still at large, have taken cell phones, wallets, laptops, purses, cash and other valuables, according to the alert.

Deputy University Police Chief Steve Johnson said police are investigating, but have found no suspects. Patrols increased in the area, and an investigator held a meeting with residents, advising them to report any suspicious activity.

Marie Nelson, a graduate student in marketing, said she was sleeping with her daughter in the upper level of their apartment when the burglary happened on May 13.

“All my bags were all dumped out … and I thought maybe my daughter had woken up before me and made a huge mess downstairs,” she said. “But I realized it was not just a mess.

“I guess I should have known better, but it’s just so safe out here that I’ve never thought about closing or locking my window downstairs,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s cell phone and $50 from her purse were missing, and she said “they downloaded a bunch of games and music off my phone.”

Commonwealth Terrace General Manager Eduardo Christ said the five burglaries since February are the only five in the building in three years.

Commonwealth Terrace houses about 1,200 residents, the majority of whom have children, Christ said.

“It’s still a pretty safe place,” he said. “We believe these incidents are just somebody preying on the community.”

Christ said the complex has increased security.

Lori Adkins moved in Commonwealth Terrace with her husband and three children last September and attended the meeting.

“The neighborhood has to stay together to stay safe,”‘ she said. “It’s harder for everybody to realize that it’s not the safest place.”