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Off-Campus ‘open-door’ mentality comes with risks

For The Miami Student

Published: Friday, November 22, 2013

Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 01:11

Junior Joann Boduch lives in a house with 11 other girls on West Church Street. She said she has experienced multiple security problems at home and does not feel safe.

“Although most of the incidents that take place in Oxford are relatively harmless, our house still considers it extremely disrespectful and offensive when our things get stolen and vandalized, even if the people doing it are people we know,” Boduch said. “Boys in multiple fraternities try sneaking into our house every single weekend and try to steal things from us, such as our artwork, furniture or food from the freezer.”

Local Coldwell Banker real estate agent Christopher Owens said most houses are not completely secured.

“Larger houses of ours may have security systems, but most do not,” Owens said. “Students just need to lock their doors and windows.”

Miami’s off-campus affairs website advises students living in Oxford to use the buddy system, not trust strangers, not walk alone at night and always be aware of one’s surroundings.

“Crime is everywhere, even in a quiet community like Oxford,” the City of Oxford’s website reads. “Recognizing this unfortunate truth is your first step toward crime prevention. Integrating this awareness into your day-to-day lifestyle is a practical matter.”

The City urges students to lock their doors, to always carry a key (and use it) and to be very aware when smoking, using space heaters and electricity safely.

Oxford Fire Department (OPD) Chief John said he urges students to be very aware of fire safety. Detherage said there need to be working smoke detectors on every level, a working fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide detector in every house.

According to Detherage, three student deaths in a 2005 house fire comprise all fire-related fatalities in Oxford over the last 10 years.

The 100-year-old Fiji house was burned down in late May, but was suspected arson, accordng to Detherage. However the age of the home meant it was completely destroyed. Fiji was not alone among Oxford’s many historic homes. According to Owens, it is common for students to live in houses that are at least 95 years old.

“This town is absolutely full of old homes,” Owens said. “We have a property on North College that was built in 1865.”

It is no surprise that old homes require upkeep. According to Owens, the quality of upkeep depends on who owns the houses and how the tenants take care of their temporary home.

“Each house requires different upkeep, depending on how it was built,” Owens said.

According to Owens, Oxford’s Building Department is partially responsible for maintaining these properties; they issue permits and inspect homes. This inspection process includes the determination of maximum occupancy and enforcing fire code.

According to Owens, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to install fire alarms, not that of the real estate company.

“Students tamper with the fire alarms all the time, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Owens said.

Break-ins also happen from time to time, but they are mostly due to students leaving windows and doors open, Owens said.

According to Boduch, the girls stay safe by locking their individual doors and when they remember, their main front door.

“When you live in a house with 11 other girls who are always forgetting their keys, it’s hard to keep the doors locked,” Boduch said.

Park Place Real Estate, their property manager, recently added locks to all of their windows.

Boduch said she feels lucky no one completely unknown to them has tried to sneak in, but she is frustrated by the open door policy that has been established without her or her roommates’ permission.

This semester, four of the girls’ cars have been vandalized in their driveway. The girl’s front and back plates were stolen. Additionally, the house was hit by a paintball gun and now needs to be repainted, according to Boduch.

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