Students residing in off-campus houses have had experiences with break-ins. LUPD takes crime prevention measures by patrolling off-campus areas. (Brandon Jia/BW Staff)

Students living off-campus share experiences with break-ins


With most non-first-year students not permitted to live on Lehigh’s campus due to COVID-19, many have turned to off-campus housing for the fall 2020 semester. For some, this has meant questions concerning their safety and security. 

While some students already had leases signed from previous years, many scrambled to find housing in the area following the university’s decision to limit on-campus housing. In the rush to find housing, some students had to compromise on amenities like security systems.

Maria Beatty, ‘21, lives off-campus and recently had her home broken into. Beatty says she was only gone for approximately an hour when the burglary took place on the night of Sept. 4.

“We got back, I came home and noticed some things were out of place, but I remember locking my door, so I thought maybe it was one of my roommates or maybe I didn’t remember leaving (the items) out of place,” Beatty said. 

As Beatty kept walking around her home, she began noticing more of her items out of place or missing and called Lehigh Police.

Despite her home’s proximity to campus, LUPD told her that, because she technically lives off-campus, her case would be referred to the Bethlehem Police Department. 

Eventually, Beatty learned her spare set of keys had been taken. Beatty planned to switch her car with another family member’s, but on Sept. 8, her car was stolen. Bethlehem Police told Beatty they would try to track down her car. 

“I got a call on Friday (Sept. 11) from Allentown Police saying they found my car, and it (had crashed into) a telephone pole,” Beatty said. “At the end of the day, all this stuff is very materialistic, and, as long as everyone is safe, that’s all that matters.”

Jake Flood, ‘23, is living off-campus this year and said he feels safe in the area despite having had his home broken into over the summer. 

“They tried to get in the front door, so they punched out a window pane and tried to reach in for the locks, but there was nothing in the house,” Flood said. “It was before we moved in.”

Both Beatty and Flood’s homes do not have security systems. Flood said he does not necessarily feel the need for a security system. 

More recently, early in the morning on Oct. 11, the Lehigh community received a safety bulletin regarding reports of three male juveniles spray painting near the 500 block of Hillside Avenue. One of the males is reported to have displayed a handgun. The group was also seen on the 200 block of East 5th Street.

Lora Martin, crime prevention officer for LUPD, outlined measures the department is taking to help students living off-campus.

These measures include patrolling off-campus areas, going door-to-door introducing themselves to students, briefing students about off-campus safety and surveying off-campus houses to look for issues that should be addressed by landlords to maximize the safety of their residents. 

“It doesn’t matter where you live, you can live in a nice suburban area or you can live in a city, crime happens anywhere,” Martin said. “If you give someone the opportunity, they’re going to take it.”

Martin asks students who find an issue with their off-campus residence to contact her, Lehigh Police Officer Charles Stokes or Bethlehem Police Officer David Horvath so they can address those issues with the student’s landlord.

Martin can be reached by email at [email protected] or through phone at 610-758-4200.

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  1. These rampant break-ins, on occasion accompanied by sexual assault, are not, as Lora Martin expresses, criminal “opportunities” created by students. Living in these poorly secured houses is undeniably unsafe, particularly for female students. Reality has proven this time and again at alarming rates. And it will only get worse this year because of the COVID stressors on the South Bethlehem community. Why is the onus on students to reach out to law enforcement and the university to request security “consultations?” There are basically 3 or 4 management companies/landlords who rent all of these houses which are mere blocks off-campus. Would it be too much to ask the university and the LUPD to proactively reach out to and partner with these landlords and collaborate on how best to protect our kids? Maybe form a small committee? It’s not rocket science. But it is a very serious problem which affects a large number of students. The lack of genuine, heartfelt concern, even fear, for students is shameful. Why wait for something tragic to happen?

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