Police prepare for spring break burglary prevention

Public safety officials from the University, along with Urbana and Champaign police departments, said they are planning to keep a close watch on campus during spring break, a time when burglaries increase as students leave their dorms and apartments unattended.

During winter break, the campus area saw an increase in criminal activity that stretched through December and January. Despite the spike, officials said they remain faithful to the patrolling plans already in place.

“For students new to our campus these spikes seem strange, but these increases are something that happen every year,” said Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney. “Our tactics are always similar to those of past years because we know what to expect.”

Lt. Skip Frost of University police said he shares a similar belief.

“Spring break is just one of those things where we know we have to be active around campus, regardless of the spike from winter break,” he said.

All three departments said they are aware of the increase in car and home burglaries during spring break.

“It seems as though there is an increase in burglaries particularly in apartment building complexes and areas with a high probability of students coming and going from their homes,” said Lt. Bryant Seraphin of the Urbana police.

Frost also said during spring break, University police will be regularly checking campus facilities and residence halls for suspicious activity.

Finney added that his officers will actively patrol the Champaign area on foot, checking open doors of apartment buildings and keeping an eye on those in and around otherwise empty student apartment buildings.

Frost and Seraphin both described spring break burglaries as “crimes of opportunity” that could have been prevented if the appropriate precautionary measures had been taken.

“This all seems like common sense,” Frost said. “But a number of people think, ‘Oh, this can’t happen to me,’ when in fact, it can and does. We’re going to do our best next week, but we need the students to do their part too.”

He said the ‘this can’t happen to me’ mentality also keeps students from utilizing the preventative program in place at the Urbana police department. The department’s “Vacation Watch List” allows students to register their apartments via phone or Internet with officials, granting police permission to make quick checks in the area for suspicious activity.

Finney said often students do not take the time to write down the serial numbers of their valuables and take photographs of them in case they are stolen, which is a method that makes it easier for police to track down the items.

Similarly, Frost described a number of instances when a list of the victim’s valuables would have been helpful in successfully recovering the items.

Seraphin spoke about “detective surveillance details” being sent to known areas of suspicious or criminal activity.

He added that this method will be employed again this year if needed.

Police suggested that students should also take preventative measures, such as locking doors, to prevent burglaries.

A public service announcement released by the Champaign Police urged residents to lock all windows, remove all valuable technology from the residence, document serial numbers of all valuable items and to forego the voicemail informing others that they are out of town or on vacation.

“A number of burglars that I talk to after making the arrest admit that they just move from door to door or car to car and try all of them until they get one that’s open,” Seraphin said.

“I’m amazed at the number of burglary reports we take when things are left open or unlocked.”