String of burglaries, larcenies instigate fear in off-campus students, residents

With an increase in burglaries and larceny in Oswego, city police aim to educate the public on keeping their belongings safe, especially when away for extended breaks.

Between Feb. 23 and 26, three individuals were charged with six counts of petit larceny separately. Then within the last month there have been a string of grand larcenies, petit larcenies and burgalaries.

“All crimes which occur within the city are of concern to the Oswego City Police Department, at all times,” said Capt. Michael Beckwith of the Oswego Police Department. “Burglaries cause an increased level of concern and receive more investigative attention than other, lesser crimes. Burglaries are felony crimes and are typically assigned to our Criminal Investigations Division for further investigation.”

Burglaries are even more alarming when they occur in occupied residences. In cases when residences are occupied, safety concerns are high. Although there have been no reported injuries as a result of recent burglaries, police worry that they could potentially lead to a victim’s encounter with perpetrators.

Beckwith said that petit larceny involves the theft of property, which could even include stealing an item from a store. Grand larceny is another level where the value of property exceeds $1,000. Another example of grand larceny would be the theft of a credit or debit card.

One grand larceny case this month was the theft of a credit card. However, Beckwith said identity theft is not a factor with the theft.

He added that few Oswego State students are the perpetrators in these offenses.

“Typically a student charged with larceny is the result of some type of petit theft as opposed to burglary,” Beckwith said.

Although few Oswego State students have taken part in the recent thefts, many have a history of falling victim to these crimes. One pressing issue is college breaks. Students go home for weeks at a time for holiday breaks, leaving their personal belongings unattended without any safe place to protect their items.

Jessica Panicola, a senior art education major, resides off campus and is often scared by the stories of Oswego State students losing their valued belongings due to burglary.

Due to poor home security, many off-campus student-housing properties become popular targets. Beckwith said that there have been cases where burglary has increased during college breaks.

Kelsey Barrick, a senior art major, was a victim of burglary. Over the 2011 summer break, her off-campus home was broken into and personal items were stolen.

“It was a laptop, an iHome, iPod, food from the cupboard and a cell phone, basically everything,” Barrick said.

Barrick said one of her housemates was staying in the home over the summer, meaning the perpetrator knew enough of the resident’s schedule to calculate a time during the day to strike.

“It made me feel like someone was watching me and it freaked me out,” Barrick said.

“The majority of items stolen are usually electronic devices, such as laptop computers, video game systems, cell phones, digital cameras, etc.,” Beckwith said. “Anything of value is a potential target, and we often see cash and jewelry stolen as well.”

Beckwith said that one factor of the surge in theft is the increase in drug activity.

“Drug users often commit burglaries and larcenies in order to obtain items which can be sold for cash to support their addiction,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith states they are looking for ways to educate the city on more efficient preventive methods to reduce the streak of theft. One suggestion Beckwith offered was to install exterior lighting as a deterrent. Another was to secure valuable items if residents plan on being away for an extended period of time. Documenting an inventory list that includes the serial numbers and other key descriptions of valuable items may also help.