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May 10, 2017

‘Tis the season for apartment thefts.

Unfortunately for several students living off-campus, as they went home for Thanksgiving break to slip into the bliss of turkey and stuffing-filled family fun, burglars were slipping into their empty apartments to steal everything of value.

An article written by Aol.com editor Tom Krauetler in 2007 stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes “400,000 burglaries occur between November and December each year.”

College students are not left out of that statistic. It is logical to assume that since students are a known target for area thieves, their apartments become even more of a temptation during times when everyone knows they are packing up to spend the weekend at home for the holidays. Plus, young adults tend to be targets for robbers as they often have expensive electronics. Laptops, iPods and mini-dvd players aren’t very difficult to bag or pocket, either.

That being said, being a University of Massachusetts student makes you less inclined to want to go home over break with all this talk of students’ vulnerability to crime. So here is how a student can protect his or herself from being a victim.

My dad always says this weird phrase: “A locked door keeps an honest man out.” I think the punch line is that the potential scheming little thief remains (relatively) honest if you lock your doors. I mention something as sensible as locking foors not because a lot of students don’t lock their doors, but because it matters if students are locking their doors with the right lock. It is a good idea to install a deadbolt into your front and back doors. Faced with a credit card, normal locks pop and fail to protect your possessions. When a deadbolt is faced with a credit card, the card quivers and snaps or something. Or well, you get the point. Deadbolt wins. And they aren’t that expensive to install.

Another good idea for when housemates are all about to go home for the holidays is to let trusted neighbors know to keep an eye out for anything sketchy. If it had been snowing while you were away, it is also not a bad idea to offer to pay someone trustworthy to clear up the driveway a bit. That way, if a burglar sees a plowed entrance to the house, the dirty thief is less likely to assume the students have gone away. If you don’t trust your neighbors because they are the sketchballs of the street, ask friends in the area to check things out every now and then. Maybe giving them a key just to have someone in the house at some point during the day might make thieves more wary about entering a house that doesn’t seem as deserted as it really is.

Additionally, if you live in wooded sections of Amherst, ask the landlord if it’d be cool to place motion-activated lights around the front and back doors to your apartment. You could go all out and tag your windows with the sensors too. Your house could have so many, it might even look festive. Okay, so I’ll drop the sarcasm, but in all seriousness, if you get rid of dark places for burglars to lurk in by lighting up your house, you’re less likely to be broken into.

Another idea might be to record loud barking noises to go off your stereo at all times while you’re away and place an obnoxiously large ”Beware of Dog” sign on your window. And it’s unnecessary to actually own a vicious watchdog. A person who thinks breaking into others’ homes is a great idea, most likely isn’t anyone wise enough to know you’re lying but might be smart enough to know getting mauled by a dog isn’t fun.

Say you just walked in after Thanksgiving, your house was broken into and half your treasures are gone. You’re a victim, it’s true, but there are a few smart measures you can take to try to get your things back.

It is unlikely the burglar will be holding your things ransom so that you can Jean-Claude Van Damme your way to him, beat him up and claim your prizes. Therefore, take inventory of the items that are missing on your house and try to remember any distinctive features about your possessions so that you can alert the cops to the robbery and what your former possessions consist of. Then for the next few months bookmark Ebay and Craigslist and watch over those sites to see if any of your stuff appears to be getting sold.

Getting your stuff stolen is already a terribly sad moment. If it happens to you, try not to be too down on yourself for not locking your doors. Society’s bigger problems are the people who steal, not the people who become victims as a result of absentmindedness.

All I can say is that if this were a movie, UMass kids would catch the bad guys like Jean-Claude Van Damme does. He’s the man.

Alyssa Creamer is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at acreamer@student.umass.edu.

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