Students reminded of flat security

Dunedin police are spearheading a campaign asking students to lock their doors and windows following a spate of burglaries from the student area last week.

Senior Sergeant Gavin Briggs, of Dunedin North, said pamphlets had been distributed by the University of Otago's Campus Watch on behalf of police, urging students to lock their flats and be vigilant.

Thefts from flats after doors and windows had been left unlocked, or open, was concerning police, and Snr Sgt Briggs confirmed he was talking with insurance companies about the issue.

Students who left doors and windows open could face ‘‘repercussions'' if their flats were repeatedly burgled, and he was asking insurance companies to support the campaign.

Beginning four years ago, the "Let's Lock It Up" campaign was aimed at reminding students to lock windows and doors.

‘‘We are trying to make them more aware of their security as well as taking more responsibility,'' he said.

Another pamphlet drop would be made in the next couple of months, to reinforce the message to students.

During the first week of orientation, seven burglaries were reported in the wider student area, three of them from unlocked flats.

Four laptops were stolen last week from one student flat. Thieves were targeting laptops, iPods, cellphones and labelled clothing, ‘‘anything they can fit into a backpack'', Snr Sgt Briggs said.

‘‘These burglars don't look out of place, but it is their behaviour students have to be on the lookout for.''

University of Otago student services director David Richardson said the "Let's Lock It Up" pamphlets had been distributed throughout the area by Campus Watch patrols and ‘‘the pamphlets reinforce our existing emphasis on raising students' awareness of good flat security''.

‘‘The university is focused on getting this message through to first-time flatters living in large flats," he said.

Surveys had shown the student area to be safe, but ‘‘despite this, we know the area is not as safe as students at times perceive it to be and that students flatting for the first time can have the greatest difficulty in managing their own flat's security'', he said.

‘‘The larger the flat, the more likely they are to have a breakdown in their own security arrangements.''

Dunedin police tactical coordinator Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said the pamphlets gave students tips to keep their possessions safe, provided contact numbers for police and campus watch, listed local storage options, and included a place to record serial numbers of valuable items.

Police patrolling the student areas had been asked to knock on the door of flats where doors and windows had been left open ‘‘to tell students to lock their doors''.

By closing windows and locking doors, students dramatically reduced ‘‘opportunities for would-be thieves'', Snr Sgt Grindell.

Students should also report when they had a ‘‘random'' [stranger] in their house, as it was common for would-be burglars to walk inside a flat with its doors open on the off-chance the house was deserted.

‘‘If they see one of these ‘randoms', they should get hold of us as soon as they can and take a note of what they look like. People have caught people inside their house and not reported anything.''

State Insurance spokeswoman Anna Pollock said the police initiative was a great idea as ‘‘it is very important students take care to protect their belongings''.

While insurance premiums were not based on the number of people living in a home, or whether they were students, ‘‘the age of the insured is one rating factor''.

‘‘Our experience for people under-25 shows that this age group warrants a higher premium, due to the number of, and costs of, claims,' Miss Pollock said.

AMI Otago manager Owen Clarke said students were charged more than other policy holders as ‘‘they were a greater risk than other householders''.

With higher risks involved in insuring a student flat, he supported the police campaign.
‘‘They are just ripe for the picking if they have left their flat insecure.'

While insurance companies were busy with new policies as students returned, Mr Clarke warned if flats had been burgled repeatedly, they might not always be insurable.


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