The Collegian
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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Police say on-campus burglaries are avoidable

The two burglaries that occurred in the University Forest Apartments last week could have been avoided, campus police officer Angela Combs said.

"Theft is the biggest and most preventable crime we have on the campus," Combs.

With the most recent timely warning sent through the university e-mail notifying students of the burglaries, students were reminded to secure their apartments and residence hall rooms when unattended. Combs said that what students needed to remember was that the though breaking and entering has only resulted in theft so far, it left opportunity for escalated crime.

"Most [burglars] look for the least intrusive way," Combs said. "Typically if they have to kick in a door, they won't do it."

The question is posed as to why students continue to leave doors unlocked when they are aware of the risk. Most students said that locking the door was more trouble than it was worth.

"To be honest," freshman Andrew Valenski said, "it's just a lot of work."

For senior Laura Bailey, keeping the door unlocked is a necessity. "Well one of [my apartmentmates] lost her key," she said. "Plus, we know everyone who lives on the block."

Some students feel safe on campus, but campus is open to visitors, Combs said.

"There's positive intent," said Combs. "They say they have friends and roommates coming and going. What they need to remember is that it leaves an opportunity for dishonest people."

Burglary is not limited to the apartments. When looking at the crime disclosure, the burglary reports from residence hall rooms were almost equal to those of apartments.

Other than leaving an unattended room unlocked, the other main opportunity for theft has proven to be among parties that become uncontrollable.

"It's what we call opportunistic crime," Combs said, "leaving a door unlocked or providing a party atmosphere-- you no longer have control over the situation."

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This year there have been four reported burglaries, two of which have now been reclassified as larcenies due to the victims' ability to narrow down a specific time and the people who were around. These situations have included the burglary of decorative signs valued at $60 and an American flag valued at $100; though usually the cases involve unidentifiable items such as money, food and alcohol.

"Our job is hugely a recreation of what happened," Combs said. "But typically, theft does not leave a trail to follow."

The fate of a crime largely lies in the hands of the witnesses. In fact, the university programs such as "text a tip" and "silent witness" have been the source of solving several burglaries. Combs emphasized that these programs are for those who want to do the right thing without getting involved.

Timely warnings have been in place since the Jeanne Cleary Act. Students are seeing a rise in the notifications this year because the university reinterpreted the law to bring a broader sense of awareness to students.

Contact reporter Caroline Merritt at caroline.merritt@richmond.edu

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