A spike in off-campus area burglaries has one Columbus Division of Police official warning students to lock their doors and windows.
Last week, two burglaries were reported that each took place at about noon when the residents were home.
And those two reports are representative of a larger trend — there have been 47 burglaries in the off-campus area since July 24, Columbus Police Deputy Chief Thomas Quinlan said.
He said the numbers are “a stunning increase from last year.”
“Of those 47, almost all were unlocked doors or windows and (the burglars) let themselves in,” he said.
The burglaries were recorded in the area between North High and 4th streets, and between Norwich and Chittenden avenues.
‘For it to happen in the middle of the day is pretty scary’
Jennifer Shafer, a third-year in strategic communication, said she and her five roommates rarely leave the door unlocked. However, they somehow did last Monday, and the mistake granted a burglar access into their West 10th Avenue residence.
She said the thief broke in sometime between noon and 1 p.m. while at least two or three people were home.
“I went upstairs to do my homework. There were still a couple people home — one was cleaning downstairs and the other girl went upstairs with me, then she left for class a little after. And then the other girl left for lunch with her family,” she said.
Shafer said she then went back downstairs to check her phone only to find it missing.
“So I go downstairs and I’m looking for it, I thought maybe my roommate had moved it when she was cleaning,” Shafer said. “We were calling my phone, trying to find it anywhere. Eventually my phone went straight to voicemail so we knew someone probably had it and turned it off or something.”
Although she eventually found her phone after it was turned into a local phone repair shop, she’s still missing her wallet, which contained credit cards, her driver’s license, her BuckID, her house key and her parents’ credit card.
Shafer said she has since been in touch with a detective who is looking into transactions made with her parents’ credit card at several nearby gas stations.
Even though no high-priced electronics were stolen, Shafer said she didn’t expect to be burglarized where she lives.
“I kind of thought that West 10th was a safer area. It’s literally a block off campus. So for it to happen in the middle of the day is pretty scary, so we just have to be more careful,” she said. “I feel like these people are watching these houses because they knew when we were upstairs. There’s no way they would have walked in if they knew we were right downstairs.”
‘My roommates and I are still a little paranoid at the moment’
Cassandra Stratton, a fourth-year in Spanish and psychology, had a similar experience at her apartment on West 9th Avenue on Friday.
“I was home with my other roommates and we all went upstairs at different times. I went to go take a quick shower before my class, and when I came back downstairs, I could have sworn I put my bookbag by the kitchen table, but it wasn’t there,” Stratton said.
She said she was only upstairs for 10-15 minutes. In that time, Stratton’s backpack was taken, with $1,800 in checks and $350 in cash inside, along with her and her roommates’ wallets, an HP laptop and the key to their apartment.
“We had the locks changed immediately and we called and canceled all of our debit and credit cards,” she said.
Stratton is now second-guessing the security of her off-campus home.
“We live off the street, which we thought would be safer, but now I feel like it’s a little bit unsafe because the burglar couldn’t be seen from the street,” she said. “My roommates and I are still a little paranoid at the moment.”
Quinlan said there’s a reason so many burglaries have occurred only this far into the school year.
“Early in the year, a lot of kids are coming from less-populated areas and aren’t use to having to lock their doors and windows all the time,” he said.
In 47 related cases, the “suspects have been all over the board, and have no ties or links to each other,” he said. These suspects range in age between 17-20, and most were not students but were instead walking around seeking an opportune time to break into a residence, Quinlan said.
He said the most popular times for break-ins are during the middle of the week from 7-8 a.m., 7-9 p.m. and at about midnight.
To prevent break-ins, Quinlan said people should always lock the doors and windows to their residences, and should keep the lights on when no one is home. He also said it’s a good idea to get to know any neighbors so people living in the area can learn to detect suspicious activity.
Additionally, students should take pictures of all of their valuables and know all the information about them, so that police can more easily prove who the owner is and return items if they are found.