In anticipation of the upcoming winter break, the London Police Service has partnered with the University Students’ Council to help educate students about safety and security related to off-campus housing.
Sergeant Chris Carne of the London Police explained that each year, the service sees a spike in reports of break-ins when students return to London from their hometowns.
“Thieves know that a lot of homes and apartments in known student neighborhoods are empty over the winter break. Many of the students living in off-campus rentals are not in London over the holidays.”
London Police and the USC worked together over the past month to try and get the word out to students.
The London Police Auxiliary Unit canvassed student neighbourhoods in early December to speak with tenants and leave information for those who weren’t home. Auxiliary Officers are a group of volunteer citizens who work alongside regular officers on issues like missing person searches, traffic control for major events, and in this case, for crime prevention.
“Ultimately what we are trying to do is make sure students understand that they could be the target of theft and to protect their homes and valuables accordingly,” said Carne.
Neighbourhoods were prioritized for canvassing after the London Police completed an analysis of historical data on crime in student neighbourhoods. Hundreds of homes were canvassed throughout the campaign.
In addition to efforts by police, the USC also sent a mass email to students with information on safety and security, and relaunched the 2015 “Lock Your F***ing Doors” campaign that was created in response to the same issue.
“No one wants to experience a break-in,” said USC Vice President Cat Dunne, “our message to students is simple: lock your doors and windows and take any valuables home with you during the break.”
Carne explained that the service will do its best to increase patrols by uniformed officers in student areas over the holidays, but that the purpose of this initiative is about proactive education and awareness.
“In many instances, the crime prevention piece and sharing of information is as effective as increased patrols, investigations, and other retroactive tools we have to address this type of crime,” he noted.
While the majority of students have limited interaction with the London Police during their time at Western, Carne wanted to ensure students know that the police are here to help keep them safe and protected, not just to enforce laws and punish bad behaviour.
“We know that a lot of students might only interact with us in situations where the contact and communication with officers is more about enforcement of liquor and property laws,” he said, “but we want students to know that we’re also here to help them because we see them as valuable members of our community.”
Crime statistics will be analyzed next month to help evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative. Students can learn more home safety tips by visiting the Crime Prevention section of the London Police website.
Safety Tips to Students from London Police:
- Ensure all your doors and windows are locked
- Turn on ‘Location services’ on your phone and laptop
- Record the make, model and serial numbers of your devices
- Use timers to turn on lights at random intervals so it looks like someone is home
- Have a trusted friend shovel your driveway/walk and collect your mail while you are away
- Take valuables with you if possible
- Don’t broadcast that you are away on social media
- Report any suspicious activity to police immediately by calling 9-1-1