Holiday crime a concern

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Graphic by Justin Chin

The number of breaking and entering offences in the Student Ghetto reaches its annual spike over the winter holidays.

“As students start to go home, you don’t have the eyes and ears to report things,” said Kingston Police Constable Paul Cappon. “We always get the highest volume of calls when they come back in January.”

Cappon said breaking and entering offences make up the largest portion of Student Ghetto crime.

These offences occur in what Kingston Police call Inner Queensville — the region that roughly extends from Union Street to Brock Street and from Victoria Street to Barrie Street.

In 2006, Kingston Police reported 85 breaking and entering offences in the Ghetto. That number rose to 103 in 2007 and peaked at 104 in 2010.

Fifty-nine offences were recorded as of Oct. 31 2011. Kingston Police couldn’t provide more recent figures.

Cappon has worked as a police officer for 28 years. He said breaking and entering statistics don’t vary wildly from year-to-year because students have a high turnover rate.

“When it’s their first time away from home, they probably don’t give enough thought to home security,” he said.

Cappon said it’s difficult to track break-ins because criminals can blend easily with students.

“These guys generally fall in the student age range,” he said. “Put on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, cover some of the tattoos and you’re not going to draw attention to yourself.”

Constable Anthony Colangeli said breaking and entering statistics would be lower if students locked their doors.

“We always ask students if their doors were locked, a lot of them say no,” he said, adding that most criminals are experienced enough that they don’t worry about getting caught.

“These guys have been doing it for a long time, they know the houses to hit,” he said. “They really don’t care if a student’s going to catch them or not because they’ll just take off.”

Colangeli said he recently recorded a break-and-enter that occurred while students were asleep in the house.

“When this guy went to bed, his laptop was sitting on his desk,” he said. “[The thief] opened the bedroom window from the outside, reached in and grabbed the laptop off the desk while the guy was sleeping.”

Theft under $5,000 and damage under $5,000 are also highly-reported criminal offences in the Student Ghetto. Theft charges peaked at 87 in 2006 and reached 69 in 2010, while damage charges hit 99 in 2006 and have consistently been over 50 every year since.

Thefts commonly include stolen purses and laptops in Stauffer, while breaking windows or defacing cars classify as damage.

Kingston Police divide the city into nine zones, usually keeping one officer on-duty in each. The Ghetto lies between Zones One and Four, making it difficult to ensure consistent monitoring.

Bicycle theft is also prevalent on campus and the surrounding area. Kingston Police reported 77 criminal offences of bike theft under $5,000 in 2006.

With the exception of 2007, the number consistently remained over 40 until 2010. Kingston Police have recorded 24 so far this year.

As with laptops and iPods, stolen bikes are difficult to recover because most students can’t provide the serial number for their possessions.

Colangeli said it’s impossible to confirm stolen goods without them.

“If the person reporting it stolen has a number, then the guy gets arrested for possession of stolen property,” he said. “But I’ll often run [a serial number] that’s coming back not stolen, so I can’t do anything about it.”

Last year, Colangeli was routinely assigned to monitor the Student Ghetto.

He said criminal acts were overshadowed by alcohol-related offences in the area.

“House parties, open liquor, drinking on front lawns ... there’s a lot of foot traffic,” he said.

On an average weekend night in the Ghetto, Kingston Police will take eight to 10 calls. Colangeli said the biggest challenge is controlling crowds of drunken students.

“It’s tough, because you can’t reason with a person who’s under the influence,” he said. “The first thing would be to call some backup, just from an officer

safety standpoint.”

But Colangeli said working last year in the Ghetto has always given him stories to tell.

“After Smoke’s Poutinerie opened up, I found a person passed out ... in his poutine,” he said. “First thing I did was pull his head out of the poutine.”

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