While many UCSB students were home stuffing their tummies with turkey last weekend, thieves in the area were busy stuffing their pockets as more than 150 Isla Vista residents reported their residences were burglarized over the Thanksgiving break.
I.V. Foot Patrol Lieutenant Sol Linver and Detective Vern Gallaher said many professional thieves, gangs and even the occasional opportunistic student from all over California make a trip to I.V., which is typically deserted during the four-day break, year after year in hopes of finding unprotected valuables left in the area by college students who went home for the holiday. Linver said there were over 250 reported thefts over the week in 2004, followed by 195 reported in 2005; this year, he said at least 150 burglaries occurred in I.V., but not all of the property crimes committed last week may have been reported to authorities yet.
In addition to burglaries, the number of DUI arrests made in Santa Barbara during the Thanksgiving break also decreased this year. Last weekend, the California Highway Patrol made seven DUI arrests in the area, three less than the 10 arrests made for the crime during last year’s holiday break.
Though there has been a steady decline in the number of burglaries made in I.V. during Thanksgiving in recent years, Linver said he thinks more can be done to improve the situation.
“We take each burglary case very seriously and investigate it thoroughly,” he said. “Ideally though, we would prefer that more burglary cases be prevented, and for that we need the help of the local population.”
Gallaher said that in last year alone, students residing in I.V. lost about $260,000 worth of personal property to burglaries in the area. Of this amount, Gallaher said only $12,000 worth of the stolen property was recovered by law enforcement.
Gallaher said burglars that target student residences in I.V. typically steal items like wallets and purses for their cash value, but also are on the lookout for expensive electronics, like iPods, because they can be resold easily and for a substantial profit. He said students can take several simple precautions to prevent personal losses during a trip home for the holidays.
“There are several things that can be done that will really help us,” Gallaher said. “The easiest and most important thing anyone can do to prevent a theft is to lock their door.”
Gallaher said he recommends students take all their valuables home during all holiday breaks, and also suggests I.V. residents have someone in the neighborhood keeping an eye on their homes any time they are left vacant.
Linver said property owners who become targets of burglary can increase the chances of having their valuables returned by writing down the serial number of any expensive item they own just after purchasing it. Serial numbers, Linver said, have helped law enforcement recover substantial amounts of stolen property after thieves attempt to resell or pawn the goods for money.
“Knowing serial numbers is very important, but 90 percent of the people who report something stolen don’t know them,” Linver said. “We enter serial numbers of stolen goods into a nationwide database that allows us to better find and recover stolen goods. We have recovered laptops as far away as Los Angeles.”