Students living off-campus remain targets for burglaries

(published during the fall semester of 2014)

BY MITCHELL NORTHAM & FELICIA WARFIELD
Staff Writers

From Sept. 21 to Oct. 12 there have been 34 reported burglary crimes in Salisbury.

The total number of burglaries in the city through the month of September is 243 and while that number is significantly down from 2009’s 505 reported burglaries through the month burglaries are still a common theme within Salisbury’s crime scene and college students living off-campus still remain a big target for a prospecting burglar.

Brianna Phillips – a 21-year-old senior at Salisbury University who is majoring in marketing and finance – has lived off-campus for over a year and has been a victim of two burglaries since June of this year.

The first happened during a Sunday afternoon on June 1 at her apartment on Coulbourn Mill Rd. in Fruitland. One of Phillips’ four roommates returned home that day and noticed the garage door had been left opened.

Upon further investigation, Phillips, police officers and her roommates discovered a skateboard in their yard that did not belong to any of the residents, screens of the window had been slashed with knives, fingerprints on those windows and footprints on their barstools. Missing from their home was a MacBook computer, a set of Beats by Dre headphones, $300 in cash and alcohol.

The second burglary took place on July 4. Phillips returned home from a trip to New York and brought home with her two large containers full of bottles of alcohol. When she returned home from work later, one container was missing and just a few houses down from her, high school-aged students were throwing a party.

She called the police to inform them that she had been robbed and that there may be underage drinking a few houses down and Phillips expected the police to come investigate, but instead they just stopped by the house throwing the party.

“We watched a cop drive by, and everybody at that party ran inside,” Phillips said. “One kid came out and talked to him, but the cop didn’t even get out of the car; he just kept driving.”

Phillips also said that the 911 operator was rude to her.

“We have a lot of other stuff going on tonight,” Phillips quoted the operator. “We’ll get to it.”

In between those two incidents, about two weeks before the second burglary, one of Phillips’ roommates caught an unknown white male attempting to break in to another roommate’s car. The man saw her, and ran away after just opening the car door, but nothing was missing.

Phillips called the police, but again, nothing was done and to their knowledge, no one was apprehended for either crime.

Since then, Phillips’ landlord has placed boards around windows and the garage to make outside access difficult for anyone who doesn’t live there and he has changed the locks. Still, Phillips, her roommates and their families want more done to prevent burglaries in the future.

“We all have said that we have wanted to put in a security system,” Phillips said. “All of our parents were really upset; my dad was pissed off.”

Phillips and her roommates are the only college students living in her area. Their neighbors to the left are elderly people, and a family with a toddler lives to their right, but a few houses down is where the high school party was, and behind them are a collection of crowded houses, according to Phillips.

“I just saw a couple of them outside all in red,” Phillips stated in reference to some of the residents living behind her.

The Los Angeles Police Department states on their “Get Informed” page about gangs that, “Blood gangs generally use red accessories, such as caps or bandanas, to identify themselves.”

In 2011, five high-ranking members of the South Side Brim Bloods who lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, three in the Salisbury area, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and conspiracy to distribute drugs and gun violations.

“It’s scary especially if it’s like, initiation time for anyone,” Phillips said. “(I’d like to see) more patrolling (by police officers). Especially late at night and on the weekends.”

Tyler Gibson – a junior at SU – lives off-campus as well and has done so for the past two months. He has not been a victim of burglary himself yet, but even though his street is patrolled by campus police, a house near his residence was broken into a few weeks ago.

“I originally didn’t feel safe for the first few nights,” Gibson said. “But I feel safe now, despite the recent break-ins.”

Unlike Phillips’ home, Gibson lives in an area where most of his surrounding neighbors are students. He lives about a mile from campus located behind the student apartment complex, University Park.

His landlord has also installed a security system.

“That is a good deterrent,” Gibson said about the security system. “We like to leave lights on in our house after sunset if we leave. For good luck, we also have a Scream mask hanging in our window to deter anyone from breaking in as well.”

Neither reports of burglaries from Phillips’ home or Gibson’s neighbor were reported on or covered by local media outlets. Vanessa Junkin, a crime and courts reporter for the Delmarva Media Group, hadn’t heard about the burglaries either or much information around the topic of Salisbury students being victims of them.

“I don’t feel like off-campus burglaries involving students get an especially large amount of coverage, although I also do not know how many burglaries there have been recently or overall involving students’ off-campus,” Junkin said. “While issues involving students are of interest to me as a reporter, I don’t know the details of every incident that occurs in the city or whether it involved students.”

The Salisbury Police Department Police did not respond in a timely manner to requests for interviews for this article, but a safety checklist for apartments is available on the Salisbury Police Department’s website.

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