On snowy mornings, Peterborough Lakefield Police officer Steve Cox says you can see footprints trailing beside parked cars for blocks at a time. People walk up and down streets and laneways looking for unlocked car doors, he says. It isn’t unusual to discover that someone has few hundred dollars’ worth of change in a backpack, taken from the cup holders or glove boxes of many people’s cars. Cox is a liaison officer at Trent and usually works in an area that he described as North of Downtown where there is a lot of student housing. He approached Arthur to get the word out that theft from homes and vehicles in that area, and in other parts of Peterborough, is on the rise. He says that people aren’t taking measures that would prevent these crimes or help convict the people responsible.

Cox told Arthur that the notion that you don’t need to lock up in a small city like Peterborough is making it easier for potential thieves. He says that some people say that they’ve lived here for decades and never locked up. Others have moved here from smaller towns and don’t understand the need for preventative measures now that they live in the city. But, Cox says, keeping your doors and windows locked can prevent you from coming face-to-face withsomeone who is breaking in. Thieves who have to work harder to get into your house or car are more likely to make noise, alerting you to a break-in, or leave forensic evidence behind, which can help with convictions.

It’s important to keep valuables out of sight, says Cox. Don’t leave cash, electronics (including your GPS unit), or even cases of beer in your car. Keep outdoor lights on at night and keep curtains closed, to make it harder to see inside your home. It might also be a good idea to take your valuables home with you for winter break. Make an inventory, with serial numbers, of what you own, and back up your assignments. Save your list online or offsite, just in case. Cox is also the officer who completed the safety audit of the McDonnell street building where the Champlain Annex was located, which is part of the area that is seeing increased break and enters. At the time, the rate of crime in the building and surrounding area was about average for Peterborough, he said. Cox counselled the university about installing safety features like window locks and exterior lights.

Cox says that it’s likely that a small group of people are responsible for a majority of the break-ins and theft. He cites Peterborough’s tough job market and high rate of drug addiction as motivators. “People lose their jobs and they can’t find another one,” he says. Cox couldn’t comment on any actions that the police were taking to address these issues, except to say that Victim Services can redirect victims of crime to community organizations that might be helpful. The Peterborough Lakefield Community Police Service will complete a free security audit of your residence, and will make recommendations for things that you or your landlord could do to reduce your risk of theft. Call 705-876-1122 and ask for Victim Services.