Wrapped in a fog of exhaustion, enthusiasm and — in some instances — disappointments, students would drag themselves to their front door carrying suitcases loaded with souvenirs and fun memories. They would turn their doorknobs lamenting their classes and homework due the next morning only to witness their wild spring break stories washed away by tears of shock and dismay. Some low life ransacked their apartments and took all of it: desktops, laptops, stereos, Televisions, even the brand new Gucci bag and, oh yes, the matching shoes too.
“My best advice for students would be to use common sense, warned Sergeant Lisa Barrong of the Eugene Police Crime Prevention Team. “ Lock your doors, lock your windows, close your blinds, and take expensive items like laptops with you,” she added talking to Kval News. However, spring break does something unique to students. Sunny and sandy fantasies that haunted them semester long finally come to life; they can literally taste it. Suddenly, dead weights of procrastinating deadlines and challenging exams fall off their shoulders. Instead, they visualize a sea of half-naked bodies on the shorelines begging a perfect tan of the sun, clashing with the waves and chasing some thrill, here and there. Hence, as they book their flights, pack their bags and fly straight to the sun, Barrong’s advice gets lost in the excitements.
Similarly, spring break bliss also affects atrocious opportunists, who like students, waited months for the annual migration to the sun. However, in lieu of golden sunsets, they salivated over the prospect of acquiring new hardware; hence, they planned, strategized and lurked around probing potential targets. It is spring break; piles of unguarded electronic goods yanked their greed, literally.
It is not a new phenomenon nor is it going away any time soon. Campuses across the United States continually fall victim to these scenarios that turn spring break into tough break for many students. Official data released in the 2010 UNCC Annual Police Report published by UNC Charlotte’s Police and Public Safety department reflect the recurring problem.
In 2009, UNCC students reported 67 such burglaries, a number sharply lower than the 97 calls the University Police received the previous year, but considerably higher than 2007 figures topping 27 burglary reports. Consequently, College Prowler, a website that monitors, grades and ranks health and safety of American universities, gave a C+ to UNCC in 2009. The website takes three factors into account when calculating the total scores for all the colleges: student survey responses, open-ended student reviews and statistical data obtained from annual reports.
Facing similar post spring break difficulties in 2009, the Eugene campus of the University of Oregon took a proactive approach that worked. Kval News reported, “The Crime Prevention Unit set up booths near the University for nine days, distributing informational flyers about how to prevent the spring break conundrum to students. They also left these flyers on car windows, in nearby businesses, and even went door to door to alert students of the risk of a break-in over spring break.” The result was startling as the Eugene Police Department (EPD) only documented 17 break-ins that year, more than 50 percent lower from 2008 when it dealt with 39 burglaries.
Absent such proactive preventive measures, UNCC police offers a list of 50 general personal safety guidelines urging students to take necessary precautions to protect their belongings and prevent frustrating losses. Personal safety tips include:
- Make sure your door is locked whenever you leave, even if only for a short time.
- When you travel out-of-town, have a friend or neighbor watch your residence for you. Have them get the mail and newspapers and keep them or put them in the residence.
- Lock computers, word processors, and similar office equipment with some type of security device.
- Protect your personal property by marking it with an additional, special identification number, such as your driver’s license number.
- Keep a list of brand names, serial numbers, model numbers, and descriptions of all electronic equipment in your home office area.
Although commonsensical, that list, buried deep into the Crime Prevention and Education Awareness section of the annual report may not get enough attention from students. “Anything’s too high as far as I’m concerned,” Barrong acknowledged to Kval News. “In terms of crime prevention I’d like those numbers to be zero,” she added.
The Eugene Police Department’s initiatives identified prevention as a winning strategy in the spring break conundrum and demonstrated that successful deterrence required the police and students working conjointly. Deliberately engaging students whose minds are preoccupied by sunny fantasies ahead of their liberating adventures helped reduce burglaries dramatically. After all, as Barrong noted, “The kids apparently listened.”