Holiday season brings increase in burglary rate

By Suzanne Tomse

Although the holiday season is a time for giving, it might become a time for taking away as thieves come out like Santa’s elves to steal Christmas goodies and everyday items.

On campus, some students’ hopes of earning extra Christmas money by selling their books back are diminished due to an increase in bookbag theft during the holiday season.

At NIU’s Campus Assistance lost and found, employees encounter an increase in students who report missing or stolen backpacks at the end of the semester, said Pat Venners, Campus Assistance supervisor. She said students report the loss of texts, calculators and notes which they find missing from the cubbyholes at the Holmes Student Bookstore.

Neil Kepner, interim bookstore director, suggested that students use the available coin lockers if they want to store anything of value. “If they use the (cubbyholes to store their bookbags), they are doing so at their own risk,” he said.

Although students must pay 25 cents to operate the lockers, the money is returned when they retrieve their books, Kepner said.

University Police Capt. James Webster said the UPs and the bookstore try to prevent book theft. “We suggest that students should not leave bookbags unattended, especially during this time of the year,” he said.

Webster said there appears to be an increase in book theft at the end of the semester due to the increase in traffic at the bookstore. He said it is easy for a person to “grab a book and hightail it over to book buyback.”

Webster also gave tips for the protection of students’ personal belongings they might leave at NIU during semester break. When on-campus students leave for the holidays, they should make sure their doors are locked, Webster said. “We find many doors unlocked because students might have been in a hurry to leave,” he said.

Webster suggested that students take home items of real value, such as jewelry or other valuable small-sized objects. However, he said holiday break is often the safest time of the year in on-campus buildings because the environment is more controlled and there are less people going in and out.

“At times during any break there is a slight increase in burglaries,” said DeKalb Police Detective Tim Rhoades. He offered some suggestions for off-campus students and DeKalb residents who will not be here for the holidays.

Rhoades said residents should not hide keys in areas outside of their homes such as under doormats or planters. He said keys should be left with a trusted neighbor. In addition, he suggested that neighbors be alert for suspicious persons near unoccupied homes.

Stopping all deliveries and not discussing absences in public are other hints that Rhoades offered. He said if students or travelers are going to be gone for an extended period of time, they should remove valuable items from their apartment or house, or move valuables to places where they cannot be seen from outside. Travelers should also use a timer to turn lights on at night and off during the day.

In addition, Rhoades suggested that residents keep a list of the serial numbers of valuable items such as televisions or stereos.

Rhoades also recommended that if gifts such as televisions, VCRs or stereos are received, the boxes should be properly disposed of so they will not be seen by possible burglars.