Students are putting themselves at unnecessary risk of being burgled by not locking doors, after a random police patrol found officers could enter half of student properties without being noticed by the occupants.
On one shift of testing front doors, South Yorkshire police could easily enter 20 student-owned properties.
Inspector Darren Starkey, who leads the Sheffield Central safer neighbourhood teams, told Forge Press many cases of students being burgled were preventable.
He said there was evidence that students were not sufficiently locking their properties.
“Officers have been conducting regular patrols in student areas trying doors to see if they are locked.
“In one shift, 40 doors were tested and over half were unlocked. This allowed police officers to walk into the property undetected.
“The testing of doors will continue while officers work together with students to reduce burglaries.”
“Burglars know that students are often new to the city and away from home for the first time, and therefore not as conscious about security measures.
“This can lead to student and multiple occupancy properties being targeted by burglars.”
It comes after figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request showed traditional student-populated areas have some of the highest burglary rates in Sheffield.
A total of 4,861 offences of burglary have been reported in Sheffield so far this year with student areas among the worst affected.
Crookes was one of only three wards in Sheffield to have recorded an increase in burglaries year-on-year even though this year’s figures only apply for the first nine months of 2012.
Last year the ward recorded a total of 189 burglaries; however, so far in 2012, 192 burglaries have been reported to police.
The figures include the number of burglaries and attempted burglaries recorded by police in Sheffield from January 1 to September 30 2012.
Broomhill, which has one of the highest proportions of student-to-let properties in the city and includes Endcliffe student village, has so far had 231 incidents of property being burgled from.
Olivia Adams, a third year student at the University of Sheffield, lived in Broomhill last year but had her house burgled in broad daylight while housemates were upstairs.
She told Forge Press that her friends returned home from watching rugby at Varsity and found her television missing.
“I found the whole experience very stressful and never expected it to happen to me.
“My television was the only thing of value in the communal rooms. Everything else we kept locked away in our rooms.
“We couldn’t claim insurance on it because one of my housemates had left the back door propped open.
“Three of my housemates were in and heard noises but thought it was each other.
“I think it was an opportunistic burglar, who saw his chance and grabbed it.”
According to the figures, there is a daily average of 17 reported cases of burglary in Sheffield.
Every week Broomhill has on average six offences of property, cars or businesses being burgled, while Crookes has almost five.
South Yorkshire police said there was evidence that students were being specifically targeted because of their poor security.
Starkey said: “South Yorkshire police is aware of the increased number of burglaries in areas of Sheffield predominantly populated by students.
“Student properties present two main opportunities for burglars. There are often multiple laptops and other electrical equipment in one shared property, and unsecure doors and windows make a burglar’s job very easy.”
He added: “It is important to highlight that these incidents are not isolated to a particular time, when students are not at home for example. They are occurring throughout the day and night.
“To tackle this issue, police officers will be increasing their focus on areas that contain high numbers of multiple occupancy properties.”
Students’ Union welfare officer Jon Gleek said he wasn’t surprised that police had seen a rise in student-related burglaries.
“Student houses are seen as good targets for burglars because the houses often have multiple items which are easily grabable and easy to sell on.
“It is also really important to get appropriate insurance for your property and check the small print of the terms and conditions to see if things like window locks are required in the policy.”
PC Bob Kenney, universities liaison officer for South Yorkshire police, advised students to keep their valuable property out of sight.