Theft a main concern in res halls

The University deputy police chief said theft is the top campus crime.

Elizabeth Cook

Tristan Driscoll woke up the morning of Sept. 24 to discover his backpack had been stolen out of his room while he was sleeping.

The backpack contained an iPod, math book and calculator, the first-year biomedical engineering student said.

Driscoll said that around 1:30 a.m., when he was laying in bed, someone knocked on his door. When Driscoll didn’t answer, a man opened the door.

When Driscoll said, “Hey,” the man said he was just checking for the time.

Now Driscoll wonders if it was someone like that, just checking someone’s unlocked room, who may have stolen his backpack, which he left by the door.

Driscoll said there are signs all over Centennial Hall warning students to lock their rooms, but he and his roommate did so only when they weren’t home. After the recent theft, they will be locking up to go to bed.

Theft is the top crime at the University, said Steve Johnson, deputy chief for the University Police Department.

According to police reports, in 2004 there were 45 reported thefts and burglaries from residence halls.

So far in 2005, there have been 38 reported thefts and burglaries in residence halls.

There are two main reasons these thefts occur, Johnson said.

In residence halls, in the beginning of the year, students start to feel comfortable in their rooms, and often leave their doors open, Johnson said.

They also don’t know everyone in their halls yet, Johnson said, and it isn’t as easy for them to recognize strangers who tailgate in.

Ben Schnabel, the University’s Security Monitor Program manager said that even though residence halls are card or key access only, outsiders also can get in by following other students.

Occasionally, students are the thieves, but most of the time it’s outsiders “preying on the students,” Johnson said.

“A thief works just like any other occupation,” Johnson said. “They think about where their opportunities are that day.”

If the opportunity is there, items get stolen, Johnson said, anything from wallets to laptops.

Theft is a problem at any college because students give thieves these opportunities, Johnson said.

While thefts occur year-round, there are certain times when it spikes, Johnson said.

For example, around the holidays, credit card theft is up because a thief can go into a busy store, use a credit card and not get asked for an ID. It’s also not unusual for people to make big purchases, Johnson said.

Students can reduce thieves’ opportunities by locking up and taking their things with them and being aware of their surroundings, Johnson said.

First-year student Susie Dekarske resides in Centennial Hall and hasn’t had a problem with theft, she said.

Dekarske said there are signs posted in the halls about locking doors, but she normally doesn’t if she’s stepping out for a moment.

If she’s out for longer, she said she does lock up.

Residence hall staff members try taking care of the problem by having security monitors, community advisers, night managers and poster campaigns, Wachen Anderson, coordinator of judicial affairs for housing and residential life, said.

The residence halls also have security cameras, so if a theft is committed, authorities can review the videotapes, Anderson said.

Schnabel said security monitors patrol the residence halls from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Monitors don’t generally see a lot of room-theft during their shifts because that normally happens during the day, he said.

Anderson said theft normally occurs during the day because that’s when students typically are not home.

At night, people are around and thieves don’t want to be seen, he said.

Schnabel said some students don’t remember they should lock their doors.

“Some people kind of forget that it’s like any other place,” Schnabel said.