Students living on their own results in a lot of new experiences, responsibilities and creates an abundant amount of new scenarios to consider.
With a low crime rate at Illinois State University and a large amount of people present throughout the campus surrounding areas, break-ins are not a common occurrence.
This was not the case for junior human research management major Rachel Olson and junior agriculture education major Megan McCausland when an intruder entered their Kensington Suites Apartment on the corner of North School Street and West College Avenue in October.
“We want to inform other college students on what happened because maybe it can be prevented from happening to them,” Olson said. “We didn’t think it would ever happen to us and I’m sure other students feel the same.”
The roommates always made sure to keep their doors locked at all times. Their apartment is elevated off of the ground with a balcony that has a door they always keep locked as well.
Olson said they left the balcony window unlocked and the intruder jumped from the retaining wall onto their balcony, removed the screen from their window and entered that way. When he exited, he walked out of the front door with a towel over his head to avoid cameras.
“When I came back I noticed the front door was unlocked and things in my room had been moved around,” Olson said.
After she called McCausland and learned she had not been home for hours, Olson figured her dog messed around with her stuff, considering she left it in her room.
“I then went to leave and could not find my car keys anywhere. Joe [her boyfriend] checked outside and said he couldn’t see my car and I started freaking out,” Olson said. “I walked passed Megan’s room and noticed that her plants sitting on her window ledge were knocked onto the floor and the window was opened.”
That is when everything clicked for Olson.
“I stood there staring at the window with my mouth open because I could not believe what had happened during those short 2 hours I was gone,” Olson said.
She said the first thing she did was call the police, her parents, her roommates and search the entire apartment to make sure the intruder was gone.
Olson encourages people to make sure the apartment has security cameras inside and outside of the apartment complex and if they do not, contact the realty company about installing them.
She also recommends locking all doors and windows when they are not in use and being cautious about who knows when everyone in the apartment leaves campus.
McCausland said it took about a week before everything calmed down.
“The realty company also didn’t hesitate to put up more cameras in the parking garage,” McCausland said. “They made us feel very comfortable with whatever we asked them.”
Her biggest word of advice is to connect any phones and laptops to trackers if it is possible. Without her computer and phone connected to Find My iPhone, they would not have been able to find her belongings and Olson’s car.
When using Find My iPhone, the app is not exactly accurate and can be anywhere between 40 — 50 feet away from the actual location.
“The address was a vacant lot and they [the police] went to the majority of the trailers nearby and couldn’t find it,” McCausland said. “While they were looking, my roommate and I went looking for her car. About a mile down the road from this location we found her car ditched on the side of the road.”
They had the car towed and checked for fingerprints. The next day they continued the search for McCausland’s laptop and ended up going to the location Find My iPhone indicated. After asking around, they were able to locate it from a woman who bought it off of an unknown individual.
ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff said the most important thing to do if you are present during a break-in is to immediately call the police and attempt to find a safe exit.
“Most burglars are there to take something and leave,” Woodruff said. “If you can’t safely exit your apartment, I would recommend securing yourself in a room and telling the intruder the police are in route. Police response time in this community is extremely fast during crimes-in-progress.”
He also recommends that students get renter’s insurance just in case situations like this, fires and other scenarios happen. He also said to keep a list of all valuable information and items, including the model, make and serial numbers.
The intruder of Olson and McCausland’s apartment has still not been caught and the items that are still missing are being replaced with their renter’s insurance.