How to keep your belongings safe when leaving for break

When in the course of temporal events the calendar creeps toward a school break, students may find themselves focused on the near future: to make plans with friends and family, to iron out vacations, to double check the duffel bag for all the necessary toiletries. However, they may too easily ignore something important to staying in Bloomington: their housing.

Students who rent houses and apartments should take some precautions in the days before breaks to guard against unwelcome house guests, be they fire, water or burglars. Many are as easy as locking doors and 

However, even those precautions can fall by the wayside, Bloomington Police Department Capt. Steve Kellams said.

“What we find, time and time again, is we forget the simple, basic things,” he said.

More than half of all break-ins take place in unlocked houses and cars, he said. Sometimes, attempted courtesy, rather than carelessness, is the key factor.

For example, a tenant, knowing their roommate often forgets to carry a house key, may leave the front door unlocked when departing for break or a weekend.

“While that makes it easy for roommates to get in, it makes it incredibly easy for criminals to get in,” Kellams said.

For tenants of large houses — where people may be coming and going more frequently and where roommates might not all know each other well — Kellams recommended deadbolt locks for bedroom doors.

He also cautioned students not to fall into the trap of leaving doors unlocked, thinking if an intruder does break in, they don’t break a window and force a costly repair. Criminals tend to return frequently to cars or buildings they know to be unlocked but usually only break into locked places if something valuable — a cellphone or laptop computer, for instance — is easily visible from the outside, Kellams said. The best solution is to keep valuables out of the view of windows.

Some less obvious precautions include putting timers on lights and stopping mail delivery so it doesn’t pile up on a porch, he said. These create the illusion of someone being at the house.

“For students, their parents took care about that, and now they’re away from home for the first time, and they haven’t had to think about these things,” he said.

Kellams said student-populated areas historically see an uptick in break-ins during breaks. However, those rates have gone down in recent years as apartments have hired more private security and BPD has increased its presence at key times in those 

Ashley Bishop, a leasing agent for Hallmark Rentals and Management, said students going on break can also ask local family or friends to check up on the house every so often.

To keep the property safe from non-human dangers temperature control is important, especially in cold weather months, she said. Setting the thermostat to 65 degrees should keep pipes from freezing and bursting, and leaving cabinets below sinks open helps ensure heat gets to the pipes. Checking the batteries in smoke detectors could pay off in case of a fire.

Property management companies can keep an eye out, especially if students give them a heads-up, and renters shouldn’t hesitate to contact their property managers if they have questions, Bishop said. She answers them all the time.

“It’s appreciated from our end, too, because we like to know when they’re headed out,” Bishop said. “We do care.”

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