Police sound alert about home invasions

London Police Service is warning The University of Western Ontario community about a string of break-and-enters in student housing areas around the university and Fanshawe College.

Const. Dennis Rivest, London Police Service media relations and corporate communications officer, says about 100 break-and-enters have occurred since July in residences near Western. The suspects are mainly targeting electronics.

“It seems most of the victims tend to be college and university students,” Rivest says, noting the majority of the incidents appear to be linked. “These appear to be crimes of opportunity. The thief or thieves see a place that is open and they take advantage of it. If the place is locked, they are less likely to break into it.”

The suspect or suspects have been entering residences at night, typically while the occupants are sleeping between 3-6 a.m. However some incidents have occurred during the daytime.

The person usually enters through an open window, unlocked door or by slitting the screen door and entering through an unlocked inside door. In some cases window screens have been slit open to gain entry.

“A yell or scream would be a good thing that will perhaps startle them and make them run away. I would rather them run away than the individual confront them, just for safety reasons,” he says.

The best way to prevent a break and enter is by locking up your residence, he says.

“We have to be vigilant and responsible and report anything that seems to be out of the ordinary,” he adds. “It is important at any point in time, you should keep your residence locked up.”

Police advise students to record serial numbers of electronics, such as laptops and cameras, and get property insurance. In the case of items being stolen, also ensure you are able to accurately identify your property.

When asked whether police will be increasing patrols in the area, Rivest says London police “are constantly evaluating what has taken place and how we can best deploy our resources,” he says.

Western’s Campus Community Police Service (CCPS) is stepping up patrols in areas targeted by London police as problem areas, says John Carson, safe campus co-ordinator for CCPS.

“We are supporting their efforts with additional patrols and working very closely with their supervisors and patrol staff,” Carson says. “This is not a widespread problem that occurs annually. I think it is a blip on the radar, quite frankly.

“Because generally this is a very safe campus and there’s been a few incidents of this type of thing happening, perhaps we all get complacent because there haven’t been issues to raise our attention or awareness,” he continues. “I think this is an anomaly.”

No break-and-enters have occurred on campus or at university-owned property, Carson says. Nor have there been any confrontations between an intruder and a resident.

“Where there has been someone in the house and the occupant has been awakened, the intruder has fled. There hasn’t been any indication of anything where there has been any assaultive behaviour in the home,” he says.

Students are encouraged to be vigilant about their surroundings, use Western Foot Patrol and report any suspicious activity to police by dialing 911.

“One of the challenges is when you have multiple people in some of the homes or apartments … it’s pretty easy to have some lax approaches to the security of that home. It’s important to have awareness among students and for them to be very vigilant,” he adds.