Advice for Securing your Property from Theft

As a retired member of the law enforcement community and a parent with children who have/are attend(ing) three separate colleges (including St. Mary’s), families of students need to take reasonable precautions before they send their sons and daughters off into the world.

No one ever expects to be a victim of a crime, and we would like to believe that the people who surround us are trustworthy and respectful of our property.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and it takes but one incident like the burglary described in Peter Sparklin’s article, “$400 of Electronics Stolen from NC3” to shock us back into reality. Although too late for some, this should be a wake-up call for others.

Many of us may not be thinking about securing renter’s insurance when their child is at college, yet it’s available at little or no cost. Some insurance carriers will often extend coverage at no charge beyond what the family is already paying for their own homeowner’s policy.

A basic policy from AAA could run $100 a year.

Before a college-bound student introduces anything of value into their dorm or apartment there are some basics that are rarely followed: the make, model, color, serial number, date/location of purchase and price of each and every article of value should be recorded in more that one place.

Entering that information within the phone contacts directory may be ideal because you can also take a picture of the specific item to include with the specific identifiable information. This can be important if the item has any unique markings that could be readily identifiable later or if its serial number has been altered or obliterated.

The original sales receipt and any warranty information should be retained in a safe, secure place away from the dorm and probably at home. Since cell phone contact directories can be easily backed-up, this information should be fairly safe and quick to restore if the cell phone itself is lost, stolen or damaged.

Of course, since all of this sensitive information is inside your cell phone, this would also be a good time to enable your phone with a passcode lock.

All students (and their parents) should also have a ready record of the contents of their wallet or purse. Open it up and photo copy the front and back of any medical, driver’s license, student ID, credit cards, etc.

Then if it’s lost or stolen there is no need to scramble to recall what was inside, the identifying numbers for those cards and who to call to place stops upon and/or replace them. Having this information as quickly as possible will also obviously enhance the ability of law enforcement to intercept fraudulent activity and possibly hinder acts of identity theft.

An additional recommendation for all students is to mark their items of value, but not with your social security number! Use a permanent marker to write your driver’s license number on valuables, but avoid attaching labels that could be easily removed.

Law enforcement can readily trace a driver’s license number, even if you move, since most motor vehicle offices will capture changes in address and relocation to another state.

While you may not wish to mar the face panel of your nice laptop or flat screen TV, place the information where it will be evident to anyone who examines it. Secondary identifiers, such as your initials, can be affixed in less obvious locations (inside the battery compartment for instance) or upon an outside edge so that you could readily identify your laptop (or Wii controller) when it’s sitting atop a table.

With the holidays approaching, this would be a good time for everyone to recognize that crime does not take a holiday, and just one Grinch can spoil the festive mood. Parents and students should be mindful that any new gadgets and gizmos that may make their way back to campus from home need to be protected long before they arrive.

Those items already here while the campus is closed may also need to be afforded a second look and any serial numbers recorded when you pick-up/drop off your student.

In addition, parents and students should be aware of current events on campus and heed any safety alerts, and students should remain aware of their own responsibility to secure their personal property in vehicles and dorms, review safety concerns with roommates, respect the property of others, report suspicious persons/activity to the proper authorities, and take any reasonable precautionary measures in advance to ensure that any property that may become lost or stolen can be identified, thereby increasing the likelihood it will be reunited with its rightful owner, and any thieves held accountable.

For those unlawful individuals who believe that they can pilfer from others and attempt to disrupt the tranquil and learning surroundings of the St. Mary’s campus, rest assured that tracking devices are an invaluable tool.

The next unattended laptop or gadget you see may be there to lure you. It will be in a student lounge, the library, a gym locker, or dashboard of a car. Leave it alone or be prepared to get acquainted with your local law enforcement.

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