Summer brings heat, but not from the police

Some might expect to find their stuff stolen while out of town for summer break, but statistics from the Burlington Police Department (BPD) show that when students return to off-campus housing for the school year, criminals are much more eager to pounce.Crime rates over the summer decrease despite the fact that students are gone for the summer, which leaves an empty house for intruders. “Generally the 24-hour population is substantially reduced, so over the summer the crime rate is lower,” UVM Police Department Captain Timothy Bilodeau said.When people are in town there are more things to steal, like iPods and other items that are easy to carry, he said.Regardless of where students live, a good portion of the undergraduate community leaves, Bilodeau said.There were 67 cases of larceny reported for this past July and August, however in September and October, there were 81 incidents of larceny, according to the BPD crime statistics report.Larceny includes theft from vehicles, off of porches for example, and other theft that doesn’t necessarily qualify as a burglary, Morrison said.Senior David Tyburski, who lives in downtown Burlington, said that he wasn’t surprised to hear that crime rates are lower in the summer, even though he lived in Burlington over the summer and experienced a car break-in.Tyburski said that he thinks that burglars are thirsty for free stuff regardless of the season.”It makes sense that the crime rate is lower because so much of Burlington’s population is out of town, but I generally think that the off-campus areas where most college students live are a target to burglars no matter what time of year,” he said.Lt. Jennifer Morrison of the BPD said that according to Department statistics, there were more reports of vandalism when students were back in town for the school year than over the summer.Vandalism includes acts like graffiti and destruction to property and vehicles, Morrison said.In July and August of last summer, 32 reports of vandalism were recorded by the BPD, but in September and October, there were 48 incidents of vandalism, according to the report.There were also fewer violations such as noise complaints over the summer, according to the BPD report.According to the report, there were 122 noise complaints reported to police in July and August last summer. In September and October, 193 noise complaints were reported.”The downtown scene was a lot quieter over the summer than during the school year,” Tyburski said.The only statistic that showed a higher rate of illegal activity over the summer was pure burglary, according to the report.In July and August, there were 23 reports of burglary, but in September and October, there were 15 burglaries, according to the report.The data covers a police patrol area that is called “the Hills,” which houses most students living off campus, Morrison said. The Hills area is generally bordered by Winooski Avenue to the west, Main Street to the south and then up directly east to Winooski and South Burlington, she said.The Hills area has more transient traffic, which means students come and go more frequently, she said.”There’s more foot traffic and more people wandering around, so it’s harder to tell if people are out of place,” Morrison said.People don’t tend to recognize their neighbors as much so they can’t tell who belongs where, she said.”That certainly creates a pool of things worth stealing, but let’s face it, there are nicer areas with other things worth stealing but they don’t get hit as hard,” she said.Other more residential areas in Burlington don’t get hit as hard because they tend to be more secluded and house people with families, she said.Regardless of what statistics show, Morrison said that none of this indicates a major trend or change between the two time periods.Morrison said that prevention is key, especially when getting people to get people to lock up their things and be vigilant in reporting suspicious events or persons.   “The University does a number of initiatives around the safety of students off campus,” Gail Shampnois, director of the Office of Community and Relations at UVM, said.Programs like off-campus living workshops and e-mail newsletters keep students informed on safety tips, she said.”In September and October, our office delivers ‘welcome bags’ to about 400 households and has conversations with the off-campus student residents about living successfully in the community as a tenant and a neighbor,” Shampnois said. The bags include safety information, as well as a “Personal Safety and Relationship Violence” brochure and a magnet with resource numbers, she said.Shampnois said that it is also important for students to establish relationships with neighbors.”That way, neighbors are more able to determine if criminal activity is happening when they are away and alert the police to it,” she said. Students should also ask their neighbors to keep an eye on their homes when they are out of town,” Shampnois said.