Students living near campus this summer had an extra reason to sweat after a series of robberies swept through College Hill. The Herald spoke with four students who experienced break-ins over the summer, all of whom expressed frustration and unease after the incidents.
Evie Hidysmith ’21 woke up around midnight on June 29 to a stranger opening her bedroom door. She originally thought the intruder was her roommate’s boyfriend, but she soon awoke again to a stranger shining a flashlight in her face and picking up her laptop.
“It took me a minute to realize what was even happening,” Hidysmith wrote in an email to The Herald. “I was so shocked, but I chased him out of the house and over our back fence while calling 9-1-1.”
Within five minutes, several Providence Police officers arrived at her residence.
Though she lost her Apple computer that night, Hidysmith was more concerned about her safety than the stolen item. “Waking up to a strange man in my room was quite terrifying and has made me rethink the safety I assumed I always had,” Hidysmith wrote. “It’s one thing to steal a few computers, it’s another to leave a house full of young women with constant paranoia and deep distrust in their community.”
Other students recounted similar experiences with summer break-ins of their off-campus homes. The week of Hidysmith’s burglary, four other burglaries were reported to the Providence Police in District Nine, which includes parts of College Hill. The Brown Police Department is responsible for crimes reported between Hope Street and South Main Street in one direction, and Wickenden Street and Olney Street in the other. Beyond this residents must rely on the Providence Police.
Summer in Providence is historically more dangerous than other times of the year. In months of warmer weather, homes are more vulnerable to break-ins because people tend to leave their windows and doors open, wrote Lindsay Lague, public information officer for the Providence Police Department, in an email to The Herald. From the first week of June until the first week of September, 41 burglaries were reported in District Nine, according to Dan Clement, crime and information system specialist for the Providence Police. But that number is not abnormally high when compared to the number of burglaries in the last five years, he added.
“There were some weeks this summer where we had an above average number reported compared to previous years but overall there were actually less burglaries reported this year than last year,” Clement wrote in an email to The Herald.
Clement noted that “burglaries in a neighborhood are normally the work of one person or two persons working as a team.” This continues in an area either until the offenders are caught, or until the Providence Police Department increases resources to “make it uncomfortable for them to continue,” he wrote.
Kate Felder, data analyst and assistant to the executive director of the Brown Department of Public Safety, wrote in an email to The Herald that “we are aware of the recent break-ins and we are working with detectives for the Providence Police to increase our patrols.”
Katie Rademacher ’19 opened the windows on the first floor of her home off of Ives Street to “try to get some cool air in the house” on the Fourth of July, she said. Rademacher was upstairs in her room and decided to leave the house around nine o’clock to watch fireworks. When she came downstairs, Rademacher saw a man she did not know standing inside her house, holding what she would later discover to be her roommate’s laptop. Before she had time to say anything, “he just very confidently turned around and walked out the front door,” she said. “It was all within the span of just a few seconds, and then he was out of the house and around the corner.”
“I didn’t even have time to process, ” Rademacher said. “I literally watched my house get robbed and did nothing about it.” Once the shock wore off, she went outside and called the Providence Police.
After finding out that her laptop had been stolen, Rademacher’s roommate, Julia Windham ’21, attempted to contact the Providence Police herself, visiting the station on Brook Street and the department headquarters downtown. The police never followed up with Windham or Rademacher, Windham said. The Providence Police did not respond to requests for comment on this case.
The experience of the break-in left Windham shaken. “Everything is locked at my house now all the time, which makes it stifling, but I feel safer that way,” she said. “It’s made me definitely not so excited about living off-campus senior year.”
Nick Scott ’21 echoed this sentiment after his sublet near the fire station on Brook Street was broken into this summer. “I’m very deterred from living off-campus, mostly by this experience,” Scott said.
Scott’s residence was broken into on a Saturday night in late June when nobody was home. An intruder entered the house through a broken window screen and stole a backpack containing a laptop and cash, according to Scott.
The Providence Police came by Scott’s house to check for fingerprints and once more to inform the residents that they hadn’t been able to find any information on the thief or the whereabouts of the stolen objects, Scott said.