As IU’s winter break approaches, University and city law enforcement have the same message for students and residents: lock up your stuff.
Each year, both the IU Police Department and the Bloomington Police Department see a spike in theft and burglary reports when students and citizens returning from winter vacations notice things missing.
“I start getting the reports rolling in as people come back into town,” BPD Capt. Steve Kellams said.
He said over the past five years, 50 percent of all burglaries and thefts reported to BPD have been from unlocked cars and homes.
“If I can get people to lock their doors,” Kellams said, “I can make a dent in property crimes in Bloomington.”
He called this eliminating the “white noise" so law enforcement can focus on the more dangerous criminals willing to smash windows and kick in doors.
Kellams said people might feel a little bit too comfortable in Bloomington and should remember to take basic safety precautions.
“A lot of this is this feeling that Bloomington is a small town,” he said. “Bloomington is a city.”
BPD Lt. Ryan Pedigo said one good way to keep people from breaking in is to make it seem like someone’s home.
Keeping lights on timers is one good way to do this. Pedigo also suggested taking any easily removable valuables out of the home. Those that can’t be removed should be documented.
“If you have big-ticket items, it’s never a bad idea to jot down serial numbers,” Pedigo said.
This makes it easier for police to locate anything reported missing at pawn shops or from items seized after an arrest.
Pedigo also said it might be worth asking neighbors to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
Over the past ten years, IUPD has seen a consistent influx of thefts and burglaries reported right after break.
Burglaries must include illegally entering a space, while theft only involves the taking of something belonging to someone else.
Last winter break, the department responded to a record high, at least in recent years, of 29 burglaries.
IUPD Capt. Craig Munroe said many of these, mostly burglaries at fraternity and sorority houses on campus, were inside jobs. An employee hired by a contractor to work on the houses over break propped a window open and returned after hours to take some things.
He was later arrested and charged, and much of the stolen property was recovered. Munroe said he’s expecting burglary numbers to drop this year since that man’s arrest.
Munroe also said students should be aware of Residential Programs and Services checking dorm rooms and on-campus apartments during break.
“Some people have things they don’t want RPS to see,” he said. “Remove those things.”
At the end of the day, everyone in Bloomington's law enforcement has nearly the same message for students and citizens.
“Lock your stuff up,” Kellams said.
“Lock your doors,” Pedigo said.
“Go home and have a good time, and if you come back and something’s wrong — let us know,” Munroe said.
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