Students across campus are getting ready for the winter holidays. They’re hanging lights, dusting off menorahs and writing wish lists. There’s one winter tradition, though, that students probably aren’t looking forward to – the annual winter break crime wave.

Year after year, students return from break to find a slashed window screen or a broken dorm room lock. Electronics like computers and iPods are often stolen, forcing some students to trek to the Fishbowl in silence for the rest of the year.

Many break-ins result from students failing to lock down their rooms, houses or apartments before they head home, giving thieves easy access to valuable personal property.

But sometimes, even locking the doors isn’t enough to keep bandits out. Intruders occasionally get in by breaking doors open or climbing through accessible windows that can’t be locked.

During past winter breaks, thieves have made off with bundles of holiday joy of their own. Last year, 15 burglaries occurred in 11 locations around Ann Arbor between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3. DVD players, computer equipment and other electronics were among the goods pilfered. The value of the stolen property totaled an estimated $10,500.

Thieves were also on top of their game during winter break in 2004. While most students were home celebrating, 24 homes were invaded and $55,000 in cash and property was reported stolen. Minutes after some students returned to campus, they were already adding a new Xbox to next year’s wish list.

Although winter recess is a particularly bad time for break-ins, this year’s Thanksgiving Break also saw an onslaught of dorm invasions.

Over the four-day-long break, 16 rooms in Couzens Residence Hall and one in Alice Lloyd Hall were broken into. Luckily for students, the thieves only stole two iPods and several rolls of quarters.

In hopes of preventing break-ins, the Department of Public Safety issued a list of precautionary measures that students and staff should take before they head home for the holidays.

In an e-mail, police said students should lock windows, doors, desks and closets to deter thieves. To prevent fire and save electricity, students should turn off appliances that might drain power.

Ann Arbor Police Detective Sgt. Richard Kinsey also offered some tips to University students. He said students should have somebody check up regularly on their house, and he emphasized the importance of locking all doors and windows.

He also said that AAPD adds extra patrols during the holiday season, but that’s often not enough to keep burglars out.

“There’s only so much we can do,” he said.

Security Checklist

Police recommend you take these steps to protect your campus home before leaving for Winter Break:
– Lock doors
– Latch/lock windows
– Have someone check on home
– Turn off appliances
– Don’t turn heat completely off
– Secure valuables

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