Sophomore mathematics major Brock Ciarlelli saw the wedged window and a wide-open sliding glass door. Next he noticed the missing plasma TV, iPod, speakers, and camera—the aftermath of an unwelcome guest who had stolen his belongings.
Many Chapman students, like Ciarlelli, have recently been the victims of residential burglaries near campus. Most thefts occur because people leave their doors unlocked or live in homes with cheap and easily broken locks, said Sgt. Fred Lopez of Orange Police Department (OPD).
So far this year there have been 361 reports of burglary and 1516 reported theft incidents in Orange, as reported by the OPD website. Theft is the act of stealing, whereas burglary is the act of breaking and entering a dwelling to commit a felony.
“I felt completely invaded and unsafe,” Ciarlelli said. “There were people in my home, in my room, putting their hands all over my things. It disgusts me what kind of person does that.”
Lopez said many burglars target areas with high concentrations of students, which makes students who host guests especially vulnerable.
“The doors are often like a revolving door,” Lopez said. “People are always going in and out, and if one person doesn’t know the other’s itinerary then you can’t control who’s home and who’s not.”
When students live with more than four people they become bigger targets for burglary, Lopez said.
“One person mentions that they know your roommate and the next thing you know, they are walking off with your iPod,” he said.
Lopez said students should research the neighborhoods where they’ll be living before moving in.
Sophomore psychology major Maxine Stern said she thinks Chapman divides the surrounding neighborhoods into north and south zones with different characteristics.
“A lot of the times I feel safe, but a lot of the times I don’t,” Stern said. “I know I feel safer on the north than the south.”
However, Stern lives south of campus, and her car was vandalized with graffiti this semester. She said that men in her neighborhood also make her feel unsafe when they yell at her in the early morning on her way to school.
Chapman Residence Life has experienced one account of residential burglary and 12 accounts of theft so far this year, which Stern said gives an inaccurate perception of Orange.
“In the dorms, you are in a bubble. You are completely oblivious to all that is around you,” she said. “Off campus, you think ‘It’s Orange, how bad can it be?’ You have no idea how different the two are.”
Sophomore strategic and corporate communications major Jillian Hunt said she has also noticed a distinct difference between the neighborhoods north and south of campus. She lives off campus past Glassell on the south side of campus, and said the difference in neighborhood character could be related to being close to gang-related areas in Santa Ana.
“I’ve never heard of stuff happening on the other side, they all live next to Chapman students or older people. Our side has pretty reckless people,” she said. “Our street is sketchy at night, and we’ve had men chase after us or whistle.”
Hunt said she worries that living with other women makes her more vulnerable to crime, but she takes precautions to protect herself.
“If we are in the house, we lock and close all the doors,” Hunt said. “We are more of targets as a group of girls.”
Randy Burba, chief of Public Safety, said the responsibility of informing students of the general safety of life beyond campus falls upon Orange Police Department, not Chapman Public Safety. He said the best way to prevent burglary is to become aware of surroundings and sign up for Facebook, Twitter and Orange-I-Watch programs that notify students of nearby incidents.
“Don’t set up opportunities for crime. It’s called keeping honest people honest,” Burba said. “If you lock things up or hide them out of plain sight, you won’t get a bunch of people looking to ransack your stuff.”
Ciarlelli said he has taken numerous precautions to ensure his home is never burglarized again.
“After we were broken into, our neighbor helped my roommate put wooden dowels in our sliding doors and windows,” he said. “We have a censored light that turns on when there is movement.” Reporting contributed by Jenna Linden