Students victims of theft, arson

by Beacon Staff • March 29, 2006

When they returned, the two students found their apartment had been burglarized and their bedrooms almost completely ruined.,Junior TV/video majors Max Trauss and Jamie Tilton were summoned back to their apartment in a three-family house on Johnnycourt Street over winter break because of what they were told was "a small fire."

When they returned, the two students found their apartment had been burglarized and their bedrooms almost completely ruined.

"I walked in and everything was boarded up and everything was destroyed," Trauss said. "I can't believe they told me it was a small fire."

Unfortunately, Trauss and Tilton are not the only students who have been the victims of burglary recently.

The 2,644 Emerson students who live off campus often don't enjoy the privilege of full-time security personnel like those working in the on-campus dormitories.

When Kent Anderson, a sophomore print journalism major, returned to his apartment on Columbus Avenue on March 19, he found his front door broken open, the deadbolt ripped from the wall.

The first thing Anderson, also a baseball player, did was grab a bat, "in case [the thieves] were still inside."

The second thing he did was alert the police to the robbery. Anderson's laptop, iPod and digital camera were stolen; his roommate Drew Sumner, a junior broadcast journalism major, was robbed of a golden necklace and his computer, and Zach Wintrow, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, lost his Playstation 2.

"The police came and filed a report," Anderson said. "They said maybe a detective would stop by, but no detective ever showed up." Trauss and Tilton also had trouble getting attention from the authorities because of poor communication between the fire department and the police department.

The fire department originally ruled the fire as accidental, delaying a criminal investigation, Trauss said.

According to Trauss, the fire report indicated that his apartment's backdoor had been kicked down in the course of fighting the fire. The fire inspector blamed the fire on a faulty lamp in Trauss' room that had fallen onto a bed and turned itself on.

Trauss said he and his roommate did not hear much else about the investigation for some time, even though the two roommates recognized that certain possessions had disappeared and had not just been burned.

"They wouldn't deal with us," Trauss said. "It took us at least two or three weeks before we heard it was arson."

Christy Letizia, coordinator of Off-Campus Student Services, said that is important for victimized students to contact their landlords.

"[Students] can come talk to me if they're upset with how their landlords are dealing with it," she said. "Sometimes the door is damaged and the landlord doesn't do anything about it."

Burglary and crime are not in the jurisdiction of Off-Campus Student Services, according to Letizia.

"If it's something that happens off campus, there's not really anything Emerson can do about it unless they think an Emerson student is responsible," she said.

However, Letizia did offer advice for students living off campus: prepare for the worst.

"I definitely encourage the [off-campus] students to look into renter's insurance," Letizia said. "It's usually 60 or 70 bucks a year and it will cover at least $15,000 worth of stuff. It usually covers a good deal of stuff that a student will have in their apartment."

Being aware and responsible, Letizia said, is also crucially important.

"Really use common sense; in a lot of cases that's half the battle," she said. "I know students who don't lock their doors, and sometimes it's just a window unlocked or halfway open."

For Trauss, the experience has taught him that you can never be too prepared.

"I felt like my own house was pretty secure," Trauss said. "Me and [Jamie] split the cost of putting bars in the windows because our landlord told us there had been break-ins before. We went ahead and had someone install bars in our windows, but I guess it didn't do any good."