Lock your doors to lock down on burglaries

By Marie Wilson

Three laptop computers, three digital cameras, a desktop computer, a television and 53 other items have been stolen from campus apartments since Aug. 1.

The perpetrators stole these items during 14 burglaries reported to the Champaign Police Department. Chief of Police R.T. Finney said burglaries occur at a higher frequency at the beginning of each academic year.

“It starts low and then goes higher due to the influx of students,” Finney said.

Finney added that burglaries are also common during Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.

“Burglars work the campus area, knowing students will be gone,” Finney said. “And the report won’t be made until they get back.”

Gary Spear, crime analyst for the Champaign Police Department, said the police department increases its watch over campus apartments during break times. He added that the education and surveillance tactics are working, and that fewer burglaries happen over breaks now than in the past.

The Champaign Police Department is working to decrease theft by educating students about how to protect their belongings, Spear said.

“We’re trying, through education, to let students know to take their stereos, cash, laptops, jewelry,” Spear said. “We hope not as many are left lying around in apartments.”

Although the burglary rate on campus has decreased, the rate for the entire city of Champaign has increased. The police department reported 501 residential burglaries in 2000 and 623 in 2006.

When a residential burglary occurs, Finney said it is usually reported by the residents, not by an officer on the street.

“Typically, someone will come home and find that their stuff’s gone and call 911 to request a report,” Finney said.

Stephen Snider, junior in LAS, followed this procedure when he came back from winter break last year and discovered his 32-inch high-definition TV missing.

“They came and filled out a report and said ‘can you get the serial number and if we ever find it, we’ll let you know,'” Snider said.

Snider was surprised that other electronic items, like his iPod and computer, were not stolen. He believed the burglar stole his TV for personal use, but Spear said most burglars steal things to sell on the street or to support drug habits.

“If you lose your laptop, chances are it’s been traded for drugs,” Spear said.

The University’s Division of Public Safety also receives reports of burglaries, but only from campus residence halls. Two residence hall burglaries were reported in August.

“Normally there’s no problems with the dorms, said Tony Ortiz, crime prevention coordinator of the University Police Department. “Items are burglarized simply because of advertising. The more people advertise what they have, the more the word gets around.”

Ortiz and Finney suggested that students always lock their residence hall or apartment doors to prevent their things from being stolen.

“The number one biggest thing is locking doors, because many apartments are burglarized out of unlocked doors,” Finney said. “Watch each other’s apartments and if someone shouldn’t be there, contact the police.”