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Opinion

Theft continues on campus, UWRF officer discusses viable prevention techniques

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November 4, 2010

On Oct. 21 Tennae Maki wrote about the increase of thefts on campus. Officer Steve Nygaard suggested the implementation of a “neighborhood watch” on campus. This great idea was not implemented. In a week, we had six thefts reported to the police department. As we try to investigate the thefts already reported, more are coming in. The UWRF Police Department has been working with leads that have been provided by victims and concerned citizens on campus. These tips help the department tremendously.

Theft cases are frustrating for our department and even more so for the victims.  Six thefts in five days is ridiculous. These thefts were not isolated to one area of campus either. Obviously physical objects are not safe anywhere on campus when left unattended. Wallets, iPods and laptop computers have the highest number of thefts. Since Sept. 1, there have been 38 thefts on campus. Twenty-two of those 38 thefts have been either a wallet, purse or an electronic device. This has shifted from last year, where the highest reported stolen items were bikes. Not many college students can afford to purchase a new laptop or iPod to replace the one stolen.

There are some things we can all do that will help us slow down, if not eliminate, the thefts on campus. The first thing everyone has to do is secure their personal possessions. If a person can walk away with an item with little force or effort, they will. I understand that there are areas on campus where you cannot bring your bag or belongings. That being said, if you are aware of your surroundings, you are less likely to be a victim. As Nygaard stated in the Oct. 21 article, the people committing these crimes are doing so because the opportunity is there. You might feel your bag is safer in a corner rather than in the open, but this is not true. The corner you are placing your bag not only hides it, it also hides the person stealing your wallet. When you are in the UC dining area, note where the cameras are. Imagine the line of view the camera pictures, and place your bag there. There have been multiple incidents where we can see a shadow of the crime committed, but not the actual act.  You cannot identify someone by the color of his or her shoelaces (as much as I wish we could).

Another thing we all have to do is be on the lookout for suspicious activity. A previous instructor taught, “If it don’t look right, it ain’t.” Those are words to live by. School has been in session long enough that you should be able to recognize people who belong on your floor in your dorm. There have been multiple incidents of a thief walking in a dorm room while the occupant is out (sometimes for less than two minutes), taking a laptop, iPod, or other easily concealable device, and walking right out. These incidents occurred because the room was open. Lock your room when no one is there. If you see a person acting suspiciously, let our department know.

It would be wonderful if there was enough respect on campus that these incidents did not occur. I would love to have theft be a non-issue, but the trend continues to grow. We — students, faculty, staff and administration — need to respond appropriately to hinder thefts on campus. If we work together as a community, we can deter the people from committing these crimes.

Patricia Forsberg has been a law enforcement officer for three years and an officer with UW-River Falls for a little over a year. She is also a student at UWRF, majoring in sociology with a criminal justice minor.