Break-ins continue with students away

By Amy Brennan

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Apartment break-ins during the long summer and winter breaks are no longer news to some University of Massachusetts students. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, between July 1 and mid-September, there were 32 break-ins in Amherst.

Matthew Harrison/Collegian

Matthew Harrison/Collegian

The burglary hasn’t stopped at just apartment break-ins. Car break-ins have occurred, although, according to police statistics, they are much less frequent.

Also according to the Gazette, on Dec. 23, one vehicle that parked in a lot off University Drive had its windows broken and a pocketbook containing $60 stolen from inside.

Many burglaries occurred over the recent winter break, when it is common knowledge the UMass campus and surrounding apartments become a ghost town. According to the Amherst Police Department’s blog, the number of burglaries which occur during summer and winter breaks rises considerably. Most of the entries are made through unlocked doors and windows, and often occur in areas with large student populations.

Amherst Police Department Sergeant David Knightly, reached via telephone, said the most commonly stolen items have been laptops.

“That seems to be the item that [burglars] are taking,” he said. “Pocket books have been taken out of houses. It’s small, carriable items being taken. They’re not taking everything they possibly can.”

Sergeant Knightly relayed that there are steps one can take to protect laptops in case of a burglary.

“Different companies offer tracking devices for when the computer isn’t even on,” he said., “If more people have those installed, it would be easier to be tracked and a good avenue to better protect yourself.”

However, most people do not utilize such devices, making stolen items extremely difficult to retrieve.

“We have recovered some property,” said Knightly. “We do the normal stuff that anyone can do. We can check pawn shops, Craigslist, eBay.”

The Amherst Police Department’s blog maintains that they have been distributing door holders to apartment buildings and homes throughout the area, as well as patrolling more often around the neighborhoods where student apartments are located. In addition, some of the officers that patrol these areas have been wearing regular clothes to facilitate in thwarting the break-ins.

Since students have returned from break to their respective apartments, there has been a significant decrease in entries.

Arielle Maiman, a senior, had three televisions stolen from her Hobart Lane apartment during the summer break.

“I was the first one back to the apartment after the summer, and noticed right when I walked in that our flat screen [television] was missing,” she said. “I checked the rest of the house and two other flat screen TV’s from my roommates bedrooms were also gone.”

Maiman said she believes the burglar got in through her basement sliding window that was often kept unlocked, and left through the back door that was unlocked when she arrived but locked when she left for summer break.

Knightly also offered some advice for the community at large on keeping their belongings safe.

“When going away, notify a neighbor so that they can be aware of checking the property out, keeping an eye out,” he said. “Also be more vigilant as a resident of Amherst when you see things that don’t look right, and be sure to relay those messages to the police department. Installing motion sensor lights is also a good deterrent”.

According to Knightly, some of the protective power has also been put in the hands of regular citizens.

“Several communities and neighborhoods have organized community watch groups,” he said. “They consist of neighbors throughout respective areas and talk about ways to deter and prevent break-ins. They have been vigilant in not just the breaking-and-enterings, but [in] other community aspects, and they have been extremely helpful in doing so.”

By following a few steps prior to leaving for long breaks, one can dissuade a thief from targeting one’s home. The Amherst Police Department recommends the S.T.O.P.  Initiative, an acronym advising citizens to secure all doors and windows, carry valuables on one when one leaves Amherst, leave all non-transportable belongings out of sight, and that the APD will be directing patrols in and around student housing

For more helpful tips on how to protect belongings, citizens are encouraged to visit www.amherstpd.org.

Amy Brennan can be reached at [email protected]