During winter break, Moscow returns to a dormant state. Classes are out and students travel back home, leaving apartment complexes, houses and cars unattended for the three-week break.
This creates the perfect opportunity for criminals looking to take advantage of unsupervised property, said Lt. David Lehmitz of the Moscow Police Department.
“People are prowling because they know they got a pretty good window there that they may not be reported for a couple weeks,” Lehmitz said. “Every year we see the same stuff, cars are broken into and apartments are burglarized.”
Lehmitz said Moscow experiences an increase in burglaries, every year during winter break.
“The victim is gone for 30 days, so the person who did that crime has a 30-day window there, where it’s not even reported,” Lehmitz said. “So it could be potentially pawned and sold by the time we even know it was stolen.”
Lehmitz said apartments are more likely to be broken into when students do not take simple precautions like locking their doors and windows before leaving for break.
“We’ve seen people crawl through windows and take computers, take TVs, take all sorts of electronics out of apartments,” Lehmitz said. “It’s just because they didn’t latch a window or bother to lock the front door.”
Lehmitz said vehicles left in and around campus over the break are also a target of theft and robbery. He said students can reduce their chance of theft, by removing valuables from plain sight, putting them under a seat or in the trunk and moving their car off-campus.
Matt Dorschel, director of public safety and security at UI, said many Greek houses are vacant over break and are a target for robbery.
“Prior to the break we work with the Greek advisers’ office … and make sure they are aware of that and take precautions,” Dorschel said.
Dean of Students Bruce Pitman said his office works with fraternities and sororities to ensure their houses are safe during the break.
Dorschel said UI security forces will increase foot patrols around Greek houses and work closely with the Moscow Police Department to identify where on campus crime is likely to occur.
“We know where the lights are out and where the vulnerabilities are, and that’s where we focus our attention,” Dorschel said.
Dorschel said even though security forces have not seen a rise in theft with university buildings, it is still a concern. He said UI security forces patrol all campus buildings throughout the break, and check for unlocked doors, open windows and other access points.
Lehmitz said when students take the time to lock up their residences and hide their valuables, they reduce their chance of becoming a robbery victim.
“The biggest thing is making sure your valuables are put away, and take the stuff with you that you don’t want stolen,” Lehmitz said. “Just take a little bit of extra time and make sure you make it a little difficult for the person to take your stuff.”
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at arg-news-uidaho.edu