Starting this winter break, the University of Oregon Police Department will launch its free program that assists students who will be out of town for vacation by running daily checks on their residences.
UOPD spokesperson Kelly McIver said that the new program, which is known as Vacation Watch, will patrol the residences of students who sign up for the program. The patrols are more than just routine drive bys — officers will check doors and windows for suspicious activity.
The program was created in order to reduce the number of break ins that both UOPD and Eugene Police see during the holiday breaks, McIver said. With students away, McIver says that criminals know that there are fewer eyes on different neighborhoods which gives them more opportunities to steal.
“It’s been something that Eugene Police have tried to combat for years in terms of putting up reminders and having different kinds of crime prevention teams who do patrols during the break and campus areas, but it’s just one of those things that is very hard to fight,” McIver said.
McIver said that winter break is an especially important time to have a program like this because the break is longer and many students leave for the three week winter break, where students might stay in Eugene for the one week spring break.
Even though spring break is shorter, Vacation Watch will still be available to students.
“We want to make sure that the same thing can happen during spring break and people will have that opportunity,” McIver said.
Students who sign up for the program will fill out a questionnaire that includes their address, the dates they leave and return and other information such as if the residence has security cameras or an alarm system.
McIver says that the information given to UOPD is confidential and will only be used by UOPD for the program.
“People can have good confidence in the program, and they can always opt out,” McIver said. “But it’s one of those things that we hope a lot of people do it because there will be strength in numbers.”
While the program can’t promise that a student’s residence won’t get broken into, McIver says an increase in patrols may deter some criminals from targeting those areas.
Despite this winter break being the program’s first test run and that UOPD wasn’t able to get the word out about it until it was very close to winter break, the department has high hopes for its success.
“It’s going to show a lot of presence in the neighborhoods and indicate to other neighbors that the area is more secure, and send the same message to potential criminals,” McIver said.
Here are a few more tips for students to protect their residences before they leave for winter break:
Keep window coverings closed so people can’t look in
Stop all mail deliveries including monthly subscription packages so they don’t sit on porches and in the mailbox
Take valuables when leaving for breaks, or hide them so they’re not in plain sight
Leave cars in well lit areas and use steering locks to prevent it being easily stolen
Make sure someone they trust will care for any pets during break