News, Off Campus, Featured Story

7 Break-Ins Reported at Students’ Off-Campus Residences This Year

The Boston College Police Department teamed up with the Boston Police Department (BPD), the Office of Residential Life, and the Office of Government and Community Affairs on Thursday to present “Pizza, Police, and Prevention,” an event intended to inform and educate BC students living off campus about what they can do to avoid being the victims of a break-in.

Since the beginning of 2018, there have been seven break-ins directly associated with BC students living off-campus. Of the seven, all were reported to have no signs of forced entry, and four involved the theft of a laptop. This number is higher than BPD expected for this early in the year, as it reported a 44 percent decrease in break-ins from 2016 to 2017. Officers believe that last year’s decrease could be due to the arrests and indictments of some of the perpetrators. BCPD Chief John M. King said that removing even one criminal from the streets can drastically alter the number of crimes committed.

The BPD stressed the importance of reporting crimes as soon as they happen, and not hesitating to call 911 if you witness behavior that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary. Students are also encouraged to be aware of phone numbers that can connect them directly to the BPD. For emergencies, people can call (617) 343-4911. People can also connect with the Community Service division—(617) 343-4376—to speak to officers about improving home security.  

“We’re here to raise awareness,” said BPD Captain Paul Russell. “If you see something, say something.”

On Feb. 21, two 911 calls were made over potential break-ins. Both calls led to the arrests of suspects, something Russell attributes to the action of the 911 callers.

“It was neighbors looking out for neighbors,” he said.

Other than community vigilance, Russell made suggestions for improving home security via installable safety measures. He recommends that students purchase battery-operated and motion-sensored cameras to install inside and outside of their homes or apartments. He has already seen the success of this installation, as this type of camera led to an arrest on Highgate Street last year after a perpetrator returned to a home he had previously burglarized, only to be recorded by the new cameras the homeowners had installed at the suggestion of the police.

In addition to installing cameras, Peter Kwiatek, ResLife’s assistant director for off-campus housing, stressed that students have to be advocates for their own safety and protection. If the locks are not functional on a door or window, or some other security measure is not suitable, students should get in touch with their landlord immediately. If the landlord is unwilling to make the change or is unreachable, the Office of Residential Life stated that it is willing to help students who reach out to make those changes.

Sergeant Shawn Burns said that most criminals are looking for homes that are easy targets, such as those that are left with doors or windows unlocked. Oftentimes, burglars will knock on the front door of a home—if someone answers, they typically ask for someone who doesn’t live there, apologize for the inconvenience, and move on to the next house. If no one answers, they might try the front door to check if its locked. If it isn’t, they are able to walk right in. They may also walk around to the backyard and force their way in through the backdoor.

On Feb. 21, officers from BCPD and BPD canvassed Foster Street, and Kirkwood, Radnor, Gerald, and Greycliff Roads to “knock and talk” with students living off campus. They knocked on roughly 60 doors and found that four residences were unsecured—the officers either spoke with the residents of the home to resolve the issue or resecured the doors. The officers reported that the community response was overwhelmingly positive, as students and neighbors were “appreciative and excited to see officers in the neighborhood.”

As students depart for Spring Break, Kwiatek stated that it would be prudent to remove all valuable items from off-campus apartments, as they are often targeted while students are away. If students are unable to bring their valuable items home, he suggested that they look into leaving them with a friend who is housed on campus.

In the case that there has been a break in, students should call the police immediately. If the break-in occurs late at night and the police are unable to arrive until the morning, students should leave everything untouched until the scene is able to be processed by law enforcement. Russell noted that while a break-in could happen at any time, most are being reported between 6 and 10 p.m.

In addition to information about safety for off-campus housing, BPD offered pamphlets and posters about staying safe in the City of Boston. One poster cautioned against the dangers of getting into a rideshare vehicle without checking the license plate and driver to make sure it’s the correct car, while another pamphlet provided tips for getting home safely late at night. King stated that they hope to plan more of these events on different topics, with the goal of keeping BC students safe and informed.

BC students who reported break-ins off campus did not respond to multiple comment requests.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Staff

February 26, 2018