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Prevent burglary over the holidays

There are two high burglary times of the year in Oxford and one just started.

After the Ole Miss vs. LSU game ended Saturday night, mass quantities of students and even residents made their exodus out of town. Now the burglars are sitting and watching.

“November is historically one of our highest burglary months,” said Oxford Police Maj. Jeff McCutchen. “It’s a one-week time where students after the Saturday game are going to take off. It is one week where some people who are students who work stay in Oxford and know exactly where entire streets and entire apartment complexes are empty. They realize if I can get one, I can get them all.”

McCutchen said the police were out driving around the past couple weeks watching patterns, because he said burglars scope out patterns themselves before the holidays. He said they “get into a comfort zone because you know you have five days” when you’re sure people are not home.

But, this week, police will change up their routines to throw off anyone who may have been watching them.

“If we aren’t vigilant during the week, the Sunday after Thanksgiving when everyone gets back we will be back to back to back with burglary reports,” McCutchen said.

The spike in burglaries is not limited to the city limits, said Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East.

“We just try to patrol all these places and apartments more and patrol them three to four times a day,” East said. “If someone is leaving for a week, they can let us know and we will check their house for them.”

East said to be sure to not leave newspapers out in the driveway and if people see something suspicious to call the sheriff’s department because the burglaries can be anywhere in the county.

“A lot of it is where students live, because most of them will be gone,” East said. “There’s no particular place. They live all over the county now, so we just do our best patrolling and keep as many folks out there as we can.”

University of Mississippi Police also will patrol throughout campus.

“We’re pretty fortunate in that a lot of our buildings have access cards required to gain entry,” said UPD Chief Tim Potts. “That certainly helps our residence halls. Certainly with some of our other buildings that don’t have that we just have to increase our patrols through those areas.”

Potts said they mark down times they patrolled certain areas so if a burglary or crime does take place they will know a time frame it could have happened in.

“It’s always a time from fraternities to apartments to residence halls where people will return after being gone for three to four weeks and things will be gone,” Potts  said. “That’s fairly common, unfortunately.”

What you can do

If you haven’t left yet or are a concerned neighbor, friend or co-worker, there are steps you can take to ensure the safety of your home.

“Lock and double check everything,” McCutchen said. “If there’s someone in town you know will be here, have them check on your house and go by randomly.”

Another suggestion is to not leave your trash can at the curb for regular pickup. McCutchen said what he has seen burglars do is move a trash can to the middle of a driveway and if it is still there a day or two later, would-be thieves know someone is not home. He said they employ the same tactic with welcome mats at the front door, moving the mat so it is resting on top of the door. If it doesn’t move, they know someone hasn’t used the door in days.

By watching those patterns police are going to know what to be on alert for this week and focus on protection, so you return to a well-kept house.

“We will have a complete, comprehensive effort to protecting people’s homes,” McCutchen said. “If residents are vigilant and make sure their things are locked up, their shot at becoming a victim diminishes.”

Cobra Security also will be patrolling areas of town, particularly apartment complexes, which frees up the police to cover more ground. Some of the complexes that have signed up for the extra holiday security detail are Lafayette Place, Campus Creek, Oxford Station, Molly Barr Trails and Oxford Square, according to Cobra’s vice president of operations, Lisa Mills.

“A lot of the apartment complexes, when it comes time for the students to leave, they hire us on the night patrols,” she said. “Things that we do at that time to step it up a bit are we make sure our guards are in vests so they are very, very visible; we make sure there are lights on their vehicles, so you see a patrol when it rolls through.”

Cobra shares checklists with apartment complexes their managers can pass out to residents for safety. Mills said the checklist has things like locking doors, windows, closing blinds, etc.

“Our guys will go through, and on the first night I cannot tell you how many glass patio doors are left open and windows are left open,” she said. “We report it to maintenance and they can call the resident and then enter the apartment and lock the window.”

Mills said the biggest thing residents can do is, “something that makes it not apparent that nobody is there.”

Potts recommended, just in case someone does become a victim, taking pictures of their items, especially the serial numbers, so they can be recovered after a theft. He also recommended not leaving items in plain view.

In addition to getting people’s doors and windows locked up after that first night of patrols, Mills said her security guards have thwarted would-be burglars in the past.

“We have definitely caught them at Lafayette Place coming over the fence from some of the other complexes,” she said. “We have definitely caught some but we know where our job ends and the police work begins. If it’s a life-threatening situation we will hold them. Otherwise, we will observe, call the police and they do the job they are hired to do.”

Christmas coming

Residents can utilize the same safety elements during the week of Christmas or any time during the remainder of the holidays when they head out of town.

McCutchen said the week of Christmas is the other major time for burglaries, however it isn’t as bad as Thanksgiving.

Places like Campus Creek Apartments prepare both students and their parents before big holidays and will again when students are readying to leave town for winter break.

“We send out emails to residents and guarantors the Friday before any holiday,” said Erin Marshall, leasing and marketing manager for the complex.

She said a checklist is sent out of safety tips and to remind residents to lock up. Marshall added they do keep a security officer patrolling the gated community the whole week of holidays also for extra precaution.

Overall, McCutchen said December should not produce the same amount of criminal activity as you would see the one week in November.

“It’s not as bad because some people trickle in and out,” he said. “You have students in winter session. It’s not a mass exodus. Typically we go very heavy on patrols over the Christmas vacation.”

A COUPLE TIPS

• Live in an apartment? If you see strange people lingering around that you haven’t noticed before and it makes you a little uneasy, trust your gut. Call the police and have them checked out. They could be scoping the place.

• Leaving your house? Put a light on a timer for the hours it will be dark and you’d be awake and keep all your shades and curtains shut. You can even turn on a radio so would-be burglars hear noise inside and think someone is home.