Theft tops list of University crimes

by Sarah McKenzie

The only thing that has changed at the University over the past three decades is the style of the students’ Doc Martens. At least, that’s how University Police Sergeant Joe May sees it.
May attended the University in the 1960s and will have been on the campus police force for 30 years come February. He said much in the way of crime has remained the same.
“Crime oscillates a little bit from year to year,” May said. “Each year about half of our time is spent on personal property thefts.”
But the quantity and type of crimes on campus has not significantly changed for the past several years. Drug use, however, has increased. May said he believes more students are using narcotics than they did in the ’60s.
He said binge drinking at the University has also followed the trend nationwide, with more and more students consuming alcohol on campus.
“There seems to be a greater majority of students who abuse alcohol excessively,” he said.
If a roommate appears to have a problem with alcohol, May advises students to notify their resident assistant immediately, before the situation gets out of hand.
Although binge drinking concerns May, he said University Police still spend a majority of their time responding to personal property thefts. He noted that keeping track of everyone’s possessions at a campus this size is nearly impossible.
Ralph Rickgarn, executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life, said although the residence halls are generally safe, students should not let their guard down.
“Lock your dorms. I can’t say that enough,” Rickgarn said.
He said sometimes students run down the hall, get wrapped up in a conversation with a friend and return 45 minutes later to a room with missing possessions.
Jewelry, wallets, laptops and checkbooks are the items most often stolen, Rickgarn said.
He added moving-in day at the residence halls is often a field-day for thieves. Parents and students often leave car doors unlocked and personal possessions unattended.
Students should be especially cautious if they own items like expensive, flashy mountain bikes or laptop computers. “Always keep things secured,” May said.
Bikes are stolen nearly everyday on campus. Registering the bike is essential and the only way to reclaim it in the case of theft. “I suggest owning the most unpopular bike style,” May said.
Another safety issue that tends to plague University students is credit card theft. May called it “time-released victimization.”
He used the example of a state prison convict who allegedly assumed the identity of a male student on campus to illustrate the potential credit card problem.
The convict had the student’s credit card, social security and bank account numbers. To this day, the convict tries to use the former student’s identity, May said.
“Minimize the amount of automated services you have,” May advised. “And keep track of the account and pin numbers.”
Besides mindful attention to personal property, May urged incoming freshmen to become familiar with their whereabouts.
“You must take all the precautions associated with living in any big town,” May said.
He warns students against walking alone at night in areas such as the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on the West Bank. The area has had problems with gang and drug violence, May said.
If students have a late-night class and need to walk across campus alone, the University provides a service called 624-WALK.
The program began in 1984 and offers a security guard to escort students home 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
For University students who commit crime instead of being victimized, Detective Charles Miner of the University Police said punishment is often two-fold.
“The student code of conduct is pretty broad,” Miner said. “We report students who commit crime to Student Judicial Affairs in Eddy Hall.”
The faculty and administrator panel has the power to expel students for acts of criminal wrong-doing and academic misconduct, he said.