Preventing Winter Break Theft

With classes about to break for the winter recess, the UW–Madison Police Department reminds the community to take a few steps to help reduce thefts. During winter break, UW police officers are doing their part by increasing patrols around campus, but they need the campus community to help.

As parents and family members, you can help remind your student to keep belongings safe. Start by having your student bring valuable items such as headphones, laptops, and tablets home when they leave campus. Other potential targets include cash, bikes, jewelry, and electronics. Remind your student to not leave attractive items out in plain sight; instead, store the items in a locked drawer, closet, or interior room. And students should take small valuables with them when they leave for the break.

A bike and helmet are shown locked to a bike rack.
As students leave campus for winter break, they should take precautions to secure belongings while they’re gone. (Photo: Jeff Miller/UW–Madison)

While it may seem obvious, reminding students to lock their residence when they leave is helpful. In their excitement to return home, students may forget this easy and important step. Have your student check apartment and office doors, as well as windows. Students should also draw any shades or curtains in their residence, to further keep things out of sight.

It may also be a good idea for students to let a landlord, property owner, or coworker know how long they will be gone and how to be reached if there’s a problem.

Recovering stolen items does not happen as often as hoped, but it is almost impossible unless a student is able to provide the police an item’s serial number. Have your student keep a log of valuable property. Include the item description, value, and serial numbers. This information helps the police to track and recover stolen property, and assists with any insurance claims. If your student experiences a theft, remind your student to call the police immediately. Some students wait days after the crime occurred to contact police. Immediacy is valuable in a police investigation.

The UW–Madison Police Department is always working to keep students and their property safe. For more information, call the department at 608-264-COPS (2677) or email You can also visit the UW–Madison Police Department’s Crime Prevention and Tips web page.