Students in Nijmegen-Oost more often victims of break-ins: ‘I stood face to face with the intruder’

08 Sep 2021

Laptops, PlayStation, mobile phones: these are only some of the things burglars like to take from student houses. Especially in Nijmegen-Oost, according to police statistics. This year, the number of break-ins in the popular student neighbourhood is rising again.

During the summer vacation, a 26-year-old student (who wants to remain anonymous) received a worrying message from his housemates. The window to his room in a student complex at the Bijleveldsingel in Nijmegen-Oost had been smashed. On top of that, a burglar had been spotted in his room. Messages like that are not what you wish for when lying at the pool in a sunny place.

Third time

‘I took a look on my phone, not expecting anything bad, and saw immediately the hundreds of messages from my housemates coming in,’ he tells. ‘The first thing I saw was a picture of my smashed-in window. I was shocked, but luckily one of my housemates caught the intruder and scared him away. Because of that, he didn’t have the chance to steal anything.’

‘In Oost live the most students, so it’s an easy target’

This has not been the first time that the student had to deal with intruders. Two times before, he stood face to face with one. ‘Both times, the thief almost got in my room. And both times, the intruders got scared, because they hadn’t realized that I was home. Because of that, they luckily went away. But the laptop of one of my flatmates got stolen on the same evening. It was impossible to determine who had done that.’

Break-in rates high in Oost

The student’s story is one of many. The break-in rates in student houses in Nijmegen-Oost are high, according to chief officer in training Merel (27) of the Nijmegen police, who, because of police-intern rules, is not allowed to be named by her last name. She is doing her graduation project for the police academy about student housing break-ins in the neighbourhood. ‘We have heard a lot about break-ins in Nijmegen-Oost throughout the past few months,’ she says: ‘for the community officer in Oost, it is one of the most frequent issues.’

The numbers themselves don’t seem high, but, according to Merel, this has to be put into perspective. ‘In 2019, we had 37 reports of break-ins in student housing in Oost. In 2020, it was a bit less. There were only around ten break-ins in student houses, probably because of more time spent at home due to the Corona crisis. Now, we are observing an increase again: we are only a bit more than halfway through the year, but have already 9 reports.’ Additionally, according to the agent in training, the actual numbers are probably much higher than the reports filed.

No neighbourhood watch

But why is Oost so popular with burglars? ‘Simply: that’s where the most students live, so it’s an easy target,’ says Merel. ‘Many students are, for example, not participating in the neighbourhood watch and monitor the neighbourhood less than adults.’

‘Students have a lot of laptops, PlayStations or iPads that are easy to take’

Student houses, according to the police, are overall a likely target. ‘We think that this is mostly because of bad security,’ says Merel. ‘Door locks of student houses are usually cheap. A lot of students also leave their windows or doors open, which makes entering easy. Students have also often laptops, PlayStations or iPads in their rooms which are easy to take.’

What to do?

According to Merel, one of the best ways to deal with disturbances like that, is to always call the police. ‘If you catch someone in the act, call 112. If possible, pay attention to description and the running direction of the intruder. If something happened without you being there, report it to 0900-8844. Additionally, keep windows and doors closed when you’re not at home and keep each other updated in, for example, group apps.’

The 26-year-old student living at the Bijleveldsingel has been trying to pay more attention to open doors since the summer. ‘After the attempted burglary last summer, my flatmate filed a report in my name,’ he says. ‘The time when a laptop was stolen, I gave a witness report. Back then, I had seen what the burglar looked like. But besides that, I’m not going to worry. It happens and there is not much I can do about it.’


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