Cops say most campus crimes are thefts

By Alex Cragun, Staff Writer

With the exception of liquor law violations, most crimes committed on campus and in the dorms are thefts, according to Scott Folsom, chief of the U Police Department since 2004.

Although theft is the second most frequent crime at the U, the crime differs in definition and charge depending on where and how the crime occurred.

“If it is in public domain, it’s classified as a theft,” Folsom said. “If it’s in a faculty office or dorm room, it’s now burglary.” Folsom said this is the hardest crime for police to prevent or investigate because of realistic limitations.

“If you’ve got a backpack on your shoulder, how do I know it’s yours? I don’t have the right to search you unless I have probable cause,” Folsom said.

The best way to prevent theft is through personal responsibility and security, Folsom said, because the majority of thefts occur when students leave their property unattended for extended periods of time. He said locking your dorm door, buying a sturdy bike lock and not allowing non-residents in the halls are good ways to prevent theft.

Folsom believes this and watchful eyes are the keys to theft prevention, and warned that many of the thefts investigated have turned out to be committed by people who neither work nor attend class at the U.

The U, however, has a low number of assaults and sex crimes reported. According to U police crime reports, in 2007 there were two sexual assaults and one aggravated assault. Folsom spoke of a program designed to ensure staff and student safety, called After Dark Campus Safety Escort, the program offers a 24-hour escorting service to those who do not feel safe walking alone to their cars or dorm rooms.

“You shouldn’t have to feel unsafe at your job or at your school,” Folsom said. He said officers are not allowed to take students outside the U. Folsom said the shortfall of the program is the high demand that requires some waiting for security escorts.

Rick James, director of student apartments, said another common crime is property destruction. He said the family dorms have about 12 to 14 car break-ins a year within close proximity of each other and that property destruction is often caused by neighborhood skateboarders.

James said that though the campus police patrol the whole campus, the family dorms have a program called the Community Safety Patrol to assist the police in patrolling the family Residence Halls. Dorm residents volunteer to patrol the parking lots of the complex at night. Although the individuals have no policing power, they are given a radio to access the police when needed. In exchange for the volunteer patrol, the residents receive a rate reduction on their rent.

“I haven’t (been a victim of crime at the U), but my friend has,” said Jordan Rullo, a psychology graduate student. “One of my friends left his book bag in the computer lab at the psychology building. He ran up to his office and when he came back down it was gone.”

Rullo said he believes the best way to prevent theft is to have common sense.

“Crime is going to happen no matter what,” he said. “You can’t be an idiot, so lock up your office and don’t leave your bag in the lab and assume it’s safe. It may look safe there, but it’s not.”

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