Campus police: Thefts remain steady

Matthew Swiger

As a new semester begins, campus crime follows, and while some students feel the frequency of thefts has increased, university police Sgt. Albert Jimenes said the number of thefts is actually normal.

According to the campus crime log, since the start of the fall 2014 semester, there have been 26 thefts, three of which have occurred since the beginning of this semester.

“Before, during and after finals is when we’ll have a little bit of an increase,” Jimenes said. “It will mostly be happening in the dorms with people moving out.”

Jimenes said residence halls are more susceptible to thefts during this time because people are focused primarily on finals, and with the stress of moving in and out of a new room, they are not as aware of their valuables as they could be.

But according to Mark Davis, resident assistant for Sunwatcher apartments, his residents do not report thefts if ever at all because the apartments are more secure than traditional residence halls.

“Everyone keeps their doors locked,” Davis said.

According to Davis and other RAs, Sunwatcher and Sundance Apartments are two of the safest buildings because the doors are locked and the rooms inside are separated by resident.

“We have the card system,” said Jordan Carter, RA of Pierce Hall and biology junior. “Not a lot of people get in without checking in, so we usually know who they are and when they got in.”

While dorms can be rife for pilfering, the crime log seems to indicate other areas as a higher risk for theft, namely open areas such as parking lots, the wellness center and the Clark Student Center.

“Students might leave their stuff lying around and someone will see an opportunity to steal a bookbag,” Jimenes said.

Jimenes said prevention is the best way to stop thefts, and the postmaster sends out reminders to keep valuables someplace safe and to ensure car and room doors are locked.

“We had a guy a few semesters ago whose roommate had an iPad stolen from his room, and we asked what the problem was. They said they couldn’t lock their door because we lost our keys,” Jimenes said. “We told him to go down to housing and get a new key…the next day he called us, hadn’t gone to get a key, and his Playstation was gone.”

An instructor in the criminal justice department may teach students to understand how crime prevention starts with the person and not the police. Jimenes solidifies this point. “It’s the best advice I can give them,” he stated, “I cannot do it for them.”

Thefts are a problem for the community regardless, and those who want to see a decrease are left to wonder why 23 thefts in a single semester is still an average number.

Jimenes said punishments for crimes can be a deterrent against future offenses, but Jimenes said not enough victims will press charges, essentially letting thieves off the hook.

“The student will come in and we’ll spend hours on this case,” Jimenes said. “Once we gather all the information, and find the suspect, we’ll ask if the student wants to press charges and they’ll ask for only the item back without pressing charges. So that’s over 72 hours of manpower and effort.”

It is true that students do not wish to rat out other students, but it is important to remember that once a person has gone through the thought process and the planning to commit a crime, and they carry it out, it is likely not the last time that person will attempt to steal.

“I don’t think somebody should steal something that costs a few hundred dollars and just get off free,” Jimenes said.

In legal terms, the minute an offender commits a crime and they are caught, they are classified a criminal. They have a criminal mind when they carry out the crime. Unless there is punishment for the offense, they see it as getting off easy.

Jimenes said once a student decides not to press charges, campus police report the offending student to the dean, but even then, the offending student may not receive as much punishment for having committed a crime as they might otherwise.

Jimenes said if a victim of theft does press charges, the offender would, simply put, go to jail.

“They would go to jail, a bond would be set, and they would have to bond out of jail,” Jimenes said. “A month or two down the road they would go to court.”

Jimenes strongly encourages students to press charges, as the likelihood the person will steal again otherwise is still greater than if charges were not filed.

“Sometimes it just takes that one time someone sees somebody going to jail,” Jimenes said.

What many do not understand is the police need someone to press charges in order to do anything with the offender. The campus police do as much as they can each semester to ensure students know the preventative steps to take, but the best prevention for crime is not so much the police as it is the civilian.

Overall, thefts have not increased by any noticeable rate, and the rate of thefts will usually taper off during the semester with classes starting up and students being more protective of their valuables. The beginning and the end of the semester is when thefts appear closer together.

Jimenes said to remember preventative methods, such as locking the doors and double-checking to make sure the car is locked, but also that that the campus police are there to enforce the law. While they cannot be everywhere at once, they can make an arrest when the student decides to press charges.

According to Peter Fields, associate English professor, instructors also worry about theft.

“We have to keep our doors open during office hours,” Fields said. “So when we step out for a minute, we leave our door open so our students realize we’re coming right back.”

Fields said thefts of faculty offices in Prothro-Yaeger Hall that occurred a few years ago caused him and other faculty to become more active in preventing future thefts.

“I’m talking about since 2002, there have only been a handful of thefts,” Fields said. “That is a small scale, but to a victim, it is certainly much larger.”

Fields said thieves could also come from off-campus.

“We see people walking down the halls that could be delivering food, or salespeople that want to sell or buy books from us,” Fields said. “Any one of people can go through our desks if the opportunity presents itself.”