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Increasing burglaries leave students feeling vulnerable

Students living off-campus often find themselves victims of burglaries during the summer away from Athens homes

 

For some Ohio University students living off-campus, a handful of burglary reports over summer break was enough to make them watch their belongings a little more closely. 

“I think that’s poor police work,” said Kaitlin Hatton, a sophomore studying commercial photography who is currently searching for off-campus housing. “If it’s just one or two, then it’d be OK. But that many? That actually worries me.”

Eight burglaries have been reported to the Athens Police Department since May. Athens Crime Solvers Anonymous reported 20 burglaries alone from April 26 to May 26 of this year. No on-campus burglaries were reported to the Ohio University Police department this summer.

But local law enforcement officials are well aware that both students and Athens residents have become uneasy.

To quell discomfort, APD offers a free service dubbed a “Vacation Home Checks,” which allows county residents a little peace of mind when they’re away by sending patrol car drive by their house every so often.

How often the cops drive by depends on how long residents are gone, said APD Lt. Jeff McCall. “It’s a good program that everyone should take advantage of. Students don’t usually request Vacation Check, and when they come back after summer, they find their belonging missing,” McCall said.

APD’s 2013 annual report cited only two calls for a Vacation Home Check that year. 

The majority of these burglaries took place in the residential areas laden with OU students, especially when in close proximity to the uptown area.

Perpetrators have stolen a variety of belongings — ranging from pricier items such as electronic equipment to standard household staples like food, McCall said. 

“For the last two weeks, there have been many cases including electronic devices,” said McCall on Monday. “I can’t think of the exact number, but it’s about 20 (cases) or plus.”

McCall said once a report is filed, a variety of procedures will follow depending on the evidence present. 

“If a fingerprint is found, then we have to go through the database. It could be a piece of jewelry that’s left on the scene,” McCall said. “If it’s household items that were stolen, chances to find evidence are small to none.”

When the evidence points to a suspect, prosecution follows.

“Half a dozen of (these suspects) already have committed burglary at least once or twice in the past,” said McCall. “There was one gentleman who got charged with several burglaries. And he committed burglary again while he was on bond and had to go through everything again.” 

McCall added that he’s seen cases in the past where residents had falsely reported burglaries to receive insurance money, but he can’t recall any recent fraudulent reports. 

Many offenders commit multiple burglaries to fund a drug habit, McCall added.

Emily Weaver, a senior studying history, was a little more sympathetic with local law enforcement’s tactics to combat burglaries, though she said she’s still skeptical.

“It’s a surprisingly high number considering the size of Athens,” Weaver said. “But then again, it probably depends on the season that the numbers are compiled. Fests and breaks (might increase the rate of burglaries), so maybe this year isn’t that bad.”

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