Burglars target four Westcott homes

While students were away on winter break, thefts plagued the off-campus neighborhood.

The Westcott neighborhood and nearby Euclid Avenue reported a total of four burglaries over a four day span during Syracuse University’s winter break, according to a report from The Syracuse Post-Standard’s Crime Database.

The break-ins targeted at least one Syracuse University student and occurred between Jan. 2 and 5, a period during which students had not yet returned to school. One of the burglaries occurred at a home on the 500-block of Euclid Avenue, while the other three were reported in the Westcott area: two on South Beech Street and one on Clarendon Street.

“I am much more fearful of, and adamant about dealing with, violent crimes against persons."
- Barbara Humphrey

“The police expect burglaries will increase when the students leave town because they leave stuff behind, our houses are easy to break into and there are a number of streets in our neighborhood that have such high concentrations of students that when they are gone, there is no one left to watch what is happening,” said Barbara Humphrey, president of the Westcott East Neighborhood Association (WENA), a group dedicated to the improvement of the popular off-campus neighborhood.

Rachel Heasley, a Fellows Avenue resident in the Westcott neighborhood for three and a half years, agreed that the increasing amount of student housing in the area may play a role in the burglaries.

“Students bring in more valuables to the area in regards to computers, TVs, money, etc., and there aren’t many houses with security systems due to mostly being low-rate rentals, creating easier access,” she said.

Although student housing in the Westcott area likely has impacted the level of crime, Humphrey believes that overall, the amount of break-ins and burglaries has decreased in recent years. And she’s right: during the week of January 2 through 8, 159 crimes were reported in Onondaga County. During the same week in 2011, 166 were reported, according to The Post-Standard.

In the Westcott neighborhood, at least part of this decrease in crime can be credited to WENA’s activism within the community. The group includes the Syracuse Police in its monthly meetings and has increased awareness of what the residents themselves can do to decrease the risk of a break-in: locking doors, keeping valuables out of plain sight and reporting suspicious behavior.

“I have attended a couple of WENA meetings in the past couple of years and it does appear that they are proactive in seeking community cohesion,” said Heasley. “When I had attended the meetings, there was a police officer present to help bridge community concerns and create open dialogue in addressing how the community and police could work together to reduce crime in the area.”

What seems most effective in reducing the level of crime in the Westcott neighborhood, however, is the sense of community that encourages the residents to look out for each other.

“In light of the muggings last year in the Westcott/University area, our neighborhood has begun to organize a community watch,” said Heasley. “There is now a Facebook page specifically for our Fellows block in order to stay in contact with one another.”

Humphrey also employs a neighborhood watch on her own street.

“I have told my SU student neighbors who play on the softball team that I will look out for their house if they tell me it will be vacant,” she said. “Students and permanent residents should reach out to one another and be aware of suspicious activities, like someone going up and down the block knocking on doors, going into back yards or looking in windows, and call 911 if they see that stuff.”

But Humphrey did note that although community activism is effective, a burglary is best left handled by the police.

“I am much more fearful of, and adamant about dealing with, violent crimes against persons,” she said. "Things can be replaced, people can't.” 

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