The Georgetown Department of Public Safety has stepped up safety checks to prevent crime in off-campus residences in the wake of at least four burglaries or attempted burglaries that occurred within a 2-block radius of campus between March 15 and 23, as many students continue to worry about their security.
“Apart from efforts to gain student acceptance of best practices in residential security, DPS is taking a number of crime prevention measures, including security surveys and directed patrols,” DPS associate director Joseph Smith said in an e-mail.
Some students living off campus appreciated the implementation of the new measures.
“[DPS] has been running late-night patrols through the backyards, and I think these should continue,” 36th Street resident David Noble (MSB ’11), a former accounts specialist at The Hoya, said in an e-mail.
DPS officers have knocked on doors to remind students of the importance of locking doors and reporting suspicious persons. Residential assistants, community assistants and the university have sent e-mails, according to 36th Street resident Catherine Ingard (COL ’10).
On March 15, DPS reported a burglary and an attempted burglary in townhouses on the 1200 block of 37th Street. On the morning of Friday, March 19, up to $6,000 worth of property was stolen from a townhouse on the 1400 block of 36th Street, and on Tuesday, March 23, a townhouse on the same block was burglarized and about $3,000 worth of property was taken from the residence. Smith confirmed that the three burglaries occurred in university-owned townhouses.
Some students feel safe in their residences, but others remain concerned that these steps will not suffice.
“I do not think the changes will be enough. I know that DPS is working hard, but they do not have a visible presence on 36th Street, and while locking doors is huge, there are always situations where people may forget, or burglars may become bolder in their actions,” Ingard said in an e-mail.
The Metropolitan Police Department determined that the suspects in the two 36th Street burglaries entered the residences through unlocked rear doors, and that the attempted burglary on March 15 involved an unknown male allegedly attempting to enter through a rear door, according to Public Safety Alerts sent to the university community. The PSAs do not specify an alleged point of entry for the 37th Street burglary.
University officials have urged students to lock their doors and windows at all times. Despite the string of burglaries, some students remain confident with the safety of their residences.
“I’ve never had a problem with the safety services and [I have felt] safe in our house as long as the doors and windows are locked,” 36th Street resident Katherine Vadella (COL ’12) said in an e-mail.
Ingard agreed that she feels safe in her residence, as she and her roommates always keep their doors and windows locked.
Noble, however, was wary of burglars developing new tactics.
“The thefts seem to be very lucrative for the criminals,” said Noble, noting burglars may attempt to break in through other means.
Although many students now say that they feel comfortable in their residences, many also voice concern about the quality of the safety procedures that the university provides.
“I wish the locks on the doors and the gate were more solid, but it is university housing, so I have low expectations,” Noble said.
Ingard’s roommate Brigit McLaughlin (COL ’10) expressed concern about the status of facilities, saying that requests placed over a week ago to fix lights by their door and backyard have not been addressed.
“Overall I do feel safe, although I do think Georgetown has failed in providing me with a safe residence,” McLaughlin said.
DPS is still analyzing the possible reasons behind the recent series of burglaries.
“An upswing on campus crime may be due to a number of variables including regional crime trends, the perceived vulnerabilities of the victims, the specific type of valuables targeted by the perpetrators and even the weather,” Smith said. “When all is said and done, though, burglars look for soft targets: unlocked doors and windows, unsecured property, and poor or nonexistent security lighting.”
This string of crimes does not seem to represent a significant shift away from levels reported in previous years, though the proximity of the burglarized townhouses is a new development. In the spring of 2008, two burglaries and a sexual assault occurred during the same weekend in LXR, and in March and May 2007, burglaries occurred in Copley and Henle Village. These incidents also prompted the university to re-examine its security policy.”