Some students have had their off-campus residences burglarized because of failure to lock their doors. Credit: Lantern file photo

Some students have had their off-campus residences burglarized because of failure to lock their doors.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Melissa Brooks, a fourth-year in integrated systems engineering, said she will never leave her off-campus home unlocked again following two break-ins that occurred at her residence within the same week.

Although she said she doesn’t normally leave the door to her Chittenden Avenue home unlocked, Brooks said she had no other choice after her roommate’s house key and wallet were stolen during an unrelated incident after a night out a few days before the first break-in.

“I was leaving the door unlocked for her, for those two or three days, so that way she could get in,” Brooks said.

It turns out, the unlocked door allowed for someone else besides Brooks’ roommate to gain entry.

“I was on my way home when one of my roommates had texted me and said ‘where’s my laptop?’” Brooks said. “That’s when I knew it was bad because she knows that I would never just take her computer for no reason and not say anything.”

When Brooks arrived home shortly after texting her roommate, she learned her laptop was gone as well, in addition to $75 in cash. It was at that point Brooks said she knew her home had been burglarized.

“We were both just in shock for a while, but what were we supposed to do?” Brooks said.

Although officers with the Columbus Division of Police dusted for fingerprints and wrote a report, Brooks said the suspect(s) have not been located and the stolen items have not been recovered.

If one break-in wasn’t enough, less than a week later, Brooks said she found an angry man who was yelling uncontrollably in her home.

“I was sitting on our futon in our living room and I hear a knock on a door on the side of our house — like a light knocking — and I didn’t move at first because it was strange because all of our friends we know would not go to that door, they would go to the front door,” Brooks said. “I didn’t move at first and then I heard a heavier knocking and then I heard the door smash open.”

Brooks said she then walked into the kitchen to investigate the crash when she noticed a man standing in her hallway, looking directly at her.

“He started yelling something about ‘Jimmy’ and how this guy owed him money and started asking where he was,” Brooks said. “I was just very calm and told him he (Jimmy) doesn’t live here and I don’t know who that is.”

Brooks said she just tried to get the man out of the house and remained calm.

“He kind of just left on his own pretty much out the same door,” Brooks said. “And then I watched him walk out in the back parking lot and he was still yelling this guy’s name, and then he just walked away.”

Brooks said the officers with whom she filed the report said the man was probably going to rob her and planned to use “Jimmy” as an excuse to get into her house. However, Brooks said she didn’t think that was the case because he didn’t seem to have a weapon and he was fixed on finding “Jimmy.”

Although Brooks’ off-campus home was broken into twice in one week, Sgt. Shaun Laire with the Columbus Division of Police said crime rates, including burglaries, generally increase during the summer months.

“Most burglars prefer times when they don’t think people are there,” Laire said. “That’s why they focus on summer break.”

Laire said he could not offer specific statistics on off-campus burglary rates.

Even though it may seem simple and basic, Laire said he sees time after time where people fall victim to burglary simply because they don’t lock their doors.

Virgil Vulvara, a fourth-year in biology, said he learned he needed to start locking his doors after he and his five roommates discovered someone had entered their Norwich Avenue apartment one morning before most of them were awake.

“I was still asleep and I remember somebody opening my (bedroom) door- I assumed it was just one of my roommates — and I didn’t get a good look at him, but someone was at my door and they closed it as soon as they saw me,” Vulvara said.

He then fell back asleep before waking up a little later to get ready for work, he said.

Before he left, Vulara said he heard someone in the kitchen and assumed it was one of his roommates and didn’t think anything of it.

It wasn’t until later in the evening that Vulvara and his roommates discovered that certain possessions — including two laptops, a music player and some cosmetics — had been taken.

“This guy has some serious balls,” Vulvara said. “It was scary. The guy literally could have done anything while we were asleep.”

Vulvara said before the incident, he and his roommates never locked their apartment doors.

The more hurdles a homeowner puts up, including locking exterior-leading doors, the less likely a burglar will gain entry, Laire said.

“(These include) locking your doors and windows, proper lighting, alarm systems, pets such as dogs, block watches and alert neighbors — those are all hurdles,” Laire said.

In addition, Laire said high quality locks, such as deadbolts, are always a good thing to have.

Both Brooks and Vulvara said they will always lock their doors following these incidents.

If students want to report concerns of violence or crime in their off-campus neighborhoods, they should email communitysafety@columbuspolice.org, a Columbus Division of Police spokeswoman said.

The email service is part of Crime Summer Initiative, where more officers patrol high-crime areas to curb crime over the summer, the spokeswoman said.