As burglaries increase around the holidays, the University of Wisconsin Police Department is reminding students of basic safety steps before they leave their apartments or homes for winter break.

“We do typically see a slight uptick in the number of theft cases or burglary cases, and not necessarily just on campus, but we’re talking off campus as well,” University of Wisconsin Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott.

Many of these crimes are crimes of opportunity, he said, with burglars breaking into empty homes around the holidays — tipped off by observations like several newspapers on the porch.

A list UWPD released Tuesday includes several suggestions for students, including:

  • Ensuring you have locked your door before leaving
  • Keeping valuables out of sight
  • Letting trusted friends know you will be out of town so they can watch over your house or apartment

The full list can be found on UWPD’s website.

Other helpful tips to keep in mind when leaving for an extended period of time include:

  • Reducing heat in your home or apartment to save money on your heating bill
  • Defrost refrigerators that will be unused over break, and remove any perishable food items from the refrigerator
  • Unplugging unused electronics will also help reduce electricity costs
  • Suspending mail service and newspaper delivery until returning to campus: “If [criminals] see 5, 6, 7, 8 newspapers piled up on a porch, it’s a pretty good indication that those folks aren’t home and haven’t been home for a while,” Lovicott said.
  • Paying all bills before leaving to make sure the lights will come back on when returning to campus
  • Putting lights on a timer to give the appearance someone is home

Keeping safety in mind lessens the chances of becoming a victim of a burglary, Lovicott said.