News: Students still at risk for theft

This year during spring break, many people left their apartments located on streets primarily populated by students. This gave some criminals the opportunity to enter and rob the houses and apartment buildings they left behind.”There are people out there who target those streets they know students live on,” Burlington Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Jennifer Morrison said. “Those people are watching and waiting for students to leave … and you’d be surprised how many people leave their windows and doors unlocked, especially on the bottom floor after they open them for fresh air.”Senior Alyssa Cote lives in a bottom floor apartment on South Union Street.  She said she left her bottom-floor apartment empty when she and her two roommates headed home to visit parents and friends.Sometime during spring break, Cote said her apartment was robbed. Her flat screen television was the only valuable missing and a Wall Street Journal was curiously left on the floor in the hallway. Morrison said that “hot-button” items are most likely to be taken. These include laptops, flat-screens and iPods, because they can easily be turned into cash.”[After realizing that the television was stolen,] I called the police a couple of days later, maybe two days. I only called so that if they did find a TV, they might know where it was taken from.”Morrison highlighted this delay as a big problem.”Some people wait days to call the police. By then they’ve moved things around and touched everything in the house,” Morrison said. “Other than to make a report, there’s very little investigative value days down the road.”At first, Cote thought her apartment was being targeted.”A few weeks earlier, my roommates car was keyed,” Cote said. “Then when this happened, we thought the incidents were related. When the police got here, they told us we weren’t the only ones. The whole street was hit,” she said. Coordinator of Off-Campus Services Alicia Taylor works in the Office of Student and Community Relations.Taylor said she works as part of a community coalition with other partners, including UVM administrators, the Office of Residential Life, city representatives, Vermont Tenants Inc., the Burlington Code Enforcement Office and UVM police officers.Taylor said that, although these types of incidents are bound to happen, there a lot ofsafety measures students can take. “When students come back to town, there are a lot of thefts, and when students leave town for breaks, there are a lot of thefts,” Taylor said. “But we’re putting the message out there about crime prevention to make sure students have the adequate resources when it comes to protecting themselves.””When you’re living with roommates, you need to get on the same page,” she said. “Make sure everyone knows to lock doors and windows and keep valuables out of sight.”Taylor said that in her work with students, she learns that many students do not lock their doors and windows, while others do not even have secure locks.”The other thing is making sure you have adequate locks on windows and doors, which is a housing code issue,” Taylor said. “If you talk to your landlord and they’re not following through, call the Burlington Code Office. Vermont Tenants Inc. can also help students if they have housing code violations.”Morrison agreed and added two other suggestions. One is to get renter’s insurance.”Folks can get it as a rider on their parents’ home policy, even if they’re out of state. It’s really, really cheap,” she said. “I also really recommend for folks to know their neighbors,” Morrison said. “There is a little bit of a local disconnect amongst young folks right now … and the best way to know if someone is out of place is to know who really belongs.”Morrison said that Burlington crime is actually decreasing and has been for a number of years. However, the reality of the situation is that despite the decrease, students are still targets of property-related crime.