Police: beware of winter break-ins

By David Valdes

With winter break approaching, students are gearing up to head back to the suburbs, the city, the countryside or wherever they call home. However, students who rent apartments might want to be extra cautious to avoid being the victims of apartment burglaries over winter break.

“It’s very common to have break-ins over the winter break,” said Sergeant Tom Frost of the Champaign Police.

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Bob Glasa, chief operating officer for Royse and Brinkmeyer Apartments, said he agreed with Frost.

“It’s a time of year when thieves know that students are gone on break. There are a lot less people around to see what’s going on,” Glasa said. “It’s a time to be especially vigilant.”

Some precautionary measures are taken for students.

“We encourage our officers to get out and walk the alleys between (apartment) buildings and hopefully prevent any unlawful entries,” Frost said.

Glasa said that he encourages tenants to inform their landlords that they will be gone for the season.

“(Student tenants should) let us know if they are going to be gone and we’ll keep an extra eye on the place,” Glasa said.

Though police and apartment managers contribute their efforts to keeping apartments safe over winter break, student tenants who will be leaving are expected to take their own precautions.

Frost said he is amazed that many student tenants forget or overlook the simplest safety precaution: locking all doors and windows. Also, Frost said tenants should take home any objects of large or small value.

“Burglars are opportunists. If there’s something to take, they are going to take it,” he said.

To prepare for the potential theft of belongings, Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union, strongly advocates the purchase of renter’s insurance.

“People are going to be burglarized. If they are not insured, the landlord does not pay – nor should the landlord have to,” she said.

Another tip students might consider is to buy timers for lamps and set them to turn on at night to trick burglars into thinking the house is occupied, Patt said.

“They’re less likely to pick yours because yours looks like someone’s home,” she said.

Another way of assuring burglars do not know a tenant is out of town is to put a hold on mail and newspaper subscriptions, Patt said.

She also suggested placing an obstructive object in the track of a sliding patio door in case a burglar dismantles a lock and attempts to pull the door open.

“Last year, two students reported burglary through a second floor patio door,” Patt said. “Every door, every floor, every window – make sure it’s secured.”

Glasa and Dawn Given, a leasing agent for Professional Property Management (PPM), said they provide instructional newsletters for their tenants.

Given described the content of PPM newsletter as “basic common sense stuff.”

There are no surefire methods for preventing burglary, but Glasa said taking any basic safety measures will help.