Police talk burglary prevention



In a citywide educational crime prevention program launched Wednesday evening, New Haven police officials presented tips to local residents on how to avoid becoming a victim of burglary.

Over the next 16 days, Sergeant Joe Avery, a crime prevention officer with the New Haven Police Department, and other city police officials will make 10 stops in a citywide initiative designed to curb the growing number of burglaries in the New Haven area. The objective of this program is to make the public aware of existing dangers and to warn against the careless mistakes that make certain homes easy targets for amateur thieves.

Within the city, burglary rates are consistent with most other metropolitan areas. Local police data indicates that burglars are mostly male teenagers who are often drug dependent and frequently opportunists.

“I’d say that 99 percent of burglars fit that profile. I don’t think we have a real professional burglary outfit in New Haven right now,” police Sgt. Kevin Costin said.

One of the simplest methods of reuniting burglary victims with their property is through the serial numbers located on most big-ticket items, policemen said. Thieves will take recently stolen televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment or computers to pawn shops, where they remain unclaimed because the burgled party has not registered the serial numbers.

“We get a report for a stolen black Panasonic VCR, we go down to the pawn shop and there are 10 black Panasonic VCRs,” Avery said. “And it stops there.”

If individuals keep the serial numbers for expensive items in a secure location, the chances of recovering the goods are markedly improved, he said. Etching pens may also be used to mark the item itself with identification.

The officers also emphasized prevention.

“Our focus is on education,” Costin said. “There are certain burglaries that happen, but there are things you can do to help us, too.”

Many of the inferences the police use when offering preventative advice come from discussion with convicted burglars, which can clue in police to general trends in their habits and motivations. For example, because it takes at least five minutes from the first sound of an alarm for police to arrive, criminals try to get in and out in five minutes or less, Avery said.

Because burglars are looking for a quick theft with few witnesses, locations that look like easy targets are the first pick of amateur thieves. Open windows or sheds, darkened interiors and easily visible items are all traditional attractions for burglars.

In a campus environment, the details differ, but burglary also poses serious threat.

“Freshmen are specifically warned about thefts on Old Campus — laptops and stuff,” Lizzie Humphries ’07 said.

Although tower rooms in Morse or Ezra Stiles colleges have little risk of burglars climbing through the windows, students who leave their doors propped are asking for similar trouble, police warned. A recent e-mail from Calhoun Master William Sledge described a computer theft that occurred while another Calhoun student was still in the suite.

“I guess you could just follow someone through a gate, hide out for a few hours, then take whatever,” Chris Lawler ’07 said.

“Burglars tend to avoid communities that are security-conscious,” Avery said. While Yale Security deals with the majority of crime issues on campus, students continue to apply the neighborhood watch philosophy.

“If I see some shady looking person skulking around Old Campus, you can bet I’ll be telling somebody,” Kyle Mitchell ’07 said.

Avery cited East Rock and Westville as neighborhoods with consistently higher burglary rates. The recent spike in burglary reports citywide prompted the campaign, and the Neighborhood Services team aims to promote the goals of common sense and attention to detail during the rest of the month.

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