Police warn students about holiday burglaries

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COLUMBIA - The semester ended for MU students on Friday and police are urging those going home for the holiday break to take precautionary measures to keep burglars out of their student housing.

Police said that burglaries and break-ins increase dramatically during the month that students leave their Columbia houses and apartments unoccupied.

Police noticed an upward trend of theft and crime during the break in 2009. Sgt. Jill Schlude , Columbia Police Department public information officer, told KOMU 8, "We actually discovered about fifteen burglaries on Christmas Eve in 2009."

Schlude said that since discovering the trend, the police department started working with a criminal analyst to target high crime areas and decrease the amount of burglaries.

Additionally, officers are offered extra pay during the break as incentive for patroling student housing complexes undercover.

Police are urging students to make sure all doors and windows are locked, leave a porch or room light on to make it appear that someone is home, place a rod in sliding doors, and hide or take home all valuables. Police are also telling students to not post about their plans to go home through social media outlets because if a burglar knows a house is empty, it becomes a target.

Some MU students going home for break told KOMU 8 the increase in burglaries over the holiday break does not concern them because they usually follow the tips police suggest.

Max Smith, an MU senior, lives in a duplex on East Campus. Smith said he believes that student-occupied appartment complexes are a bigger target for burglary than houses because criminals know that they will probably be empty.

Smith said burglars recently broke into his friend's appartment in the Ashwood housing complex, located behind the MU vet school. Smith said the robbers broke in through a sliding door and stole nearly everything of value from the apartment.

Police said over the next month, they rely heavily on residents of the Columbia area to report crimes. Police urge anyone who sees suspicious activity in or near student housing areas to call 911 or 875-TIPS.