Off-campus housing: Winter Break…ins?
Updated: Feb 11, 2019
SU students return from winter break to find houses broken into and personal possessions stolen.
Winter break is a time that many Salisbury University students eagerly count down the days until; however, students aren’t the only ones excited for their departure.
While students pack up their cars looking forward to a stress-free holiday, thieves often begin plotting their attacks on unoccupied homes.
According to US News, about 69 percent of students live in off-campus housing.
It’s not hard to find someone on campus who has been victimized by a burglar. CrimeReports.com reported 100 incidences in Salisbury, Maryland including theft (74 percent), breaking and entering (24 percent) and robbery (2 percent).
An SU junior living off of Maryland Avenue, who wishes to remain anonymous, was one of the many students left vulnerable to robbery over winter-break.
The source believes that her landlord's misleading descriptions played a role in the lack of safety that she and her housemates now feel following the break-in that happened in the days leading up the Christmas.
“When we were first touring the house, our landlord claimed that the area was safe and ‘she would put her daughter in the house’ however, we soon realized the area was in fact not safe,” the source said.
The source and her housemates were contacted by the Salisbury Police Department and their landlord, finding that a number of valuables were stolen. According to the report, fingerprints were found and the source confirmed that officers assured the prints would be run, but results could take months to receive.
The anonymous source had some critiques for the school sponsored housing fairs that she previously attended to find her current home.
“If they are going to do that, they need to require landlords to disclose crime maps and any previous crime that occurred to the house or area," the source said. "Students need to be informed before they naively rent. The school needs to take responsibility for its students and the landlords it sponsors."
In the end, the source recommends that if a student can’t find a house in a safe vicinity, then it’s worth paying the money to live in an on-campus community.
“To be robbed is to feel vulnerable, unsafe, endangered," the source said. "To be robbed while home is perhaps the scariest thing in the world, though thankfully that did not happen to us.”
SU junior Brooke Ward decided to move off campus to get more space for her money and claimed she "felt comfortable since she’s from the area."
When asked how many property related incidences she thought occurred over break, Ward guessed around 50, but wasn’t too surprised to hear there were 131 total property related incidences reported through CrimeReports.com, a crime-mapping site partnered with local law enforcement.
Ward’s home, just a three-minute drive from campus, was robbed sometime over the New Year’s holiday. According to Ward nothing was stolen, but the trespassers went through all of her belongings.
The SPD reported finding a Fanta soda bottle with DNA which Ward said "was promised to be tested but was never followed up on."
“It can happen anywhere,” Ward reflects. “I grew up here and never thought it would happen to me but if you think about it, it can happen anywhere no matter where or who you are, it’s going to happen.”
In contrast to these experiences, SU Senior Frankie Shamrock claimed his landlord made all the difference in his circumstance.
Shamrock moved off campus for better parking and cheaper rent. According to Shamrock, about midway through winter break, someone picked their front door lock, rummaged through their personal belongings, stole all the change in their rooms, and left out the back door.
Shamrock's landlord allegedly came by to check on the home and noticed the usually barricaded back door open and immediately contacted the residents.
“It definitely helps knowing as soon as possible that someone had broken in, and he also checked that things like TV’s and computers were still there," Shamrock said. "He also let us know and locked back up, while checking over the rest of the break to make sure nothing else happened. I’m satisfied with how he handled it.”
When it came down to disclosing past crimes in the area, Shamrock noted his landlord was transparent about the matter.
“He told us the neighborhood was OK but not the best, that’s why he told us he would check up on us recently because he’s had a history of people breaking into houses over times thieves know no one’s home," Shamrock said.
Considering over half of SU's attendees live in off-campus housing, many students could benefit from the University taking more initiative in providing resources. SU does provide resources for off-campus residents such as rental resources, safety information and CrimeReports.com, but Shamrock suggests additional resources should be provided.
Shamrock thinks it would be helpful if the Salisbury University Police could patrol certain housing areas during breaks to deter other crimes to unoccupied homes.
By MEGAN SOUDER
Featured photo: Megan Souder image.