MAASTRICHT. The number of student buildings that are targeted by burglars is on the rise. “We are worried about this,” says student liaison officer Paul Vermin. “The months of June through to August are fairly quiet, but when the days get shorter, like now, we see an increase, just like with regular houses.” Vermin doesn’t have hard and fast figures. “When we register burglaries, we don’t specify if it concerns a student building, as yet, but we do notice that a considerable number of burglaries are linked to students. Of course the cause is also due to the increase in numbers of students in Maastricht.”
Break-ins take place throughout the city. “Buildings with lots of doorbells or bicycles outside are favoured. Doors are regularly left open or not properly locked.”
This month – which also includes Housebreaking Week – the police’s anti-housebreaking team will focus specifically on student accommodation. “The darker days offensive,” says Vermin. “We will observe houses and sometimes – if the door is open – even enter to confront the inhabitants with their ‘negligence’. We want to make them aware of unsafe situations.” The police team will also try to catch burglars in the act.
Paul Vermin was appointed two years ago as student liaison officer. The police wanted to inform students in a more direct way and also gain more insight into how things were among the target group. “So far we have mainly concentrated on Dutch students, but we will now put more effort into informing foreign students.”
Students with questions can always contact Vermin, through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burglary prevention tips:
* Do not leave valuable items in sight.
* Close windows and doors, even if you are only going into the garden or sitting on the balcony. Ensure that the front door is properly closed (so do not just pull it closed behind you but put on the extra security locks) and do not leave your keys in the lock.
* Make sure the front door cannot be opened through the letterbox (so-called angling). This can be done, for example, by installing a box or a bag to catch the post or by attaching a wide piece of wood to the door above the letterbox, making angling more difficult or impossible.
* Discuss the 'night lock'/extra lock on the door, with your fellow-inhabitants. At the moment this is often not used because students are not sure if everyone is already home.
* If someone you don’t know enters the house, ask him or her whom they have come to visit.
* Check whether your house has a lock that is easy to open using the flip method (burglars can open the door by pushing a (bank) pass or credit card between the door and the doorframe and flipping it open). If this is the case, you should ask your landlord for a safer lock.
* Ask your landlord if the house can get the Police’s ‘Veilig Wonen’ Mark of Quality. This is a kind of certificate for accommodations that meet a number of requirements in the field of burglary prevention. In the Netherlands, 18 thousand homes have this police certification. Only two of these homes have been burgled.
* Make regular back-ups of your work and store it elsewhere. If your laptop is stolen then at least you will still have your data.
* Install "track and trace" software or apps.
* Make sure you have fire and theft insurance and take photographs of valuable items (and their serial numbers). It is difficult to give accurate descriptions of stolen goods after a burglary.
* Contact the police about suspicious situations and always file a report after theft.