CSUN dorms see increase in burglaries

Antoine Abou-Diwan

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There has been a marked increase in burglaries in campus housing this year, the Department of Police Services reported.

The Department of Police Services said four dorm burglaries were reported in 2009.  Twenty-three burglaries have been reported this year, they said, almost six times the number of burglaries as last year, and the year is not over yet.

“Bottom line — it’s worse,” said Christina Villalobos, special assistant to the chief of police and community relations officer.

Items typically stolen this year were electronics.

“They’re (burglars) focusing on laptops and video game consoles,” Villalobos said.

Almost all the burglaries have taken place in dorms that are on the ground floor, said Scott VanScoy, captain of patrol services.

Suspects typically entered the victims’ dorms through open or unlocked windows or sliding glass doors, VanScoy said.  Most thefts have happened in the early morning or late afternoon, when students are in class, he added.

“This is preventable, especially for those living on the ground floor,” Villalobos said.  “Locking windows and doors isn’t too much to ask for.”

Police services said they suspect the burglars are opportunistic.

“There are no pry marks or evidence of forced entry,” VanScoy said.

Villalobos said locking doors and windows would have the biggest effect in reducing burglaries.

“We are trying to change the behavior of residents,” Villalobos said.  “We issue bulletins frequently (reminding residents to secure their apartments).”

A campus crime alert bulletin issued by police services described three suspects.  Three black males, approximately 5’10” with thin builds and approximately 18 to 22 years old were seen exiting from an apartment window carrying large backpacks.

Although police services is following up leads as to the identities of the burglars, they are not ready to rule out anybody inside or outside the CSUN community, VanScoy said.

“Most thefts have happened early mornings or late afternoon,” VanScoy said.  “We need residents to be vigilant and call police.”

Dorm security is a collective endeavor.  Locking away personal belongings and closing and locking windows is still not enough if roommates are careless about residential security, VanScoy said.

“You can lock things but if they (fellow residents) don’t, you’re out of luck,” VanScoy said.

There are about 950 dorm units, according to Melissa Giles, associate director for residential life, and one third of them are on the ground floor.

“I believe that the majority of burglaries occur because people don’t lock their doors and windows,” Giles said.  “Thieves have discovered that this is a gold mine of opportunity.”

VanScoy agrees.

“When a criminal commits a crime, they tend to remember the location,” he said.  “If it’s a prosperous location, they’ll come back and keep doing it.”

Giles and VanScoy said burglaries in the dorms are cyclical.

“We had something similar in the beginning of 2002-03,” VanScoy said.

The Clery Report, an annual crime awareness and security report, indicated 19 burglaries in 2007 and 32 burglaries in 2008.

VanScoy said there would be a new population of students next semester and that police services will continue to try to educate students and staff about ways to reduce and eliminate opportunities for burglars and thieves.

Giles said residents leave dorm windows and doors unlocked because they she thinks some of it is naive.

“It’s an urban environment, Giles said. “People need to recognize that.”