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University Police reports show increase in on-campus thefts

October 21, 2010

It has been an active year for thieves at UW- River Falls, as the number of reported thefts on campus has strongly increased since 2009.

In the preceding year, there were 27 reported incidences of theft. With two and a half months remaining in 2010, there has been 49 theft crimes on campus, said Officer Steve Nygaard.

According to the University Police, since Sept. 1, there have been 25 reported thefts on campus.

Nygaard had two explanations as to why these numbers have increased: students could be reporting more stolen items or there is more criminal activity performed by one or multiple individuals.

When a person reports a stolen item, the University Police do devote their efforts towards gathering as much information as possible so they may identify the perpetrator, said Chief of Police Richard Trende.

“We do have active investigations going on, I cannot say if they are related,” Trende said.

Strategically placed cameras across campus have played a crucial role in these efforts. UWRF has video surveillance on the parking lots, sidewalks and the University Center, Nygaard said. 

According to University Police reports, some of the crimes committed have occurred at the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. Belongings that have been reported missing include bicycles, iPods, and money. Faculty and staff members have made adjustments to secure these buildings further.

The art department has alerted professors on the incidences. They have been warned to close their doors and to dismiss students who are not enrolled in the given class, said Program Assistant Susan Zimmer.

“Recently, people have been coming to us more often about stolen things,” said KFA Student Facilities Manager Tracy Meyer. “So, we started locking our closet doors.”

“In the UC we’ve also seen a fair number of thefts. They are concerned about it,” Trende said.

UC director, Cara Rubis said that redirecting some of the cameras towards the locations of higher theft risk is being considered.

According to University Poice reports, individuals have reported instances of theft at the Riverside Commons.

The UC, however, takes no responsibility over an individuals belongings, may they be lost or stolen, Rubis said.

UWRF takes the same position as the UC with regards to who is responsible in guarding a person’s belongings.

Nygaard said that the city of River Falls should be treated more like a large city.

Freshman Nicole Boll said that guarding personal possessions in the dorms is the only place a student should be held responsible.

“I’d rather not leave my belongings outside the eating areas or the book store,” Boll said.

Senior Spencer Gansluckner said that although the duty of protecting their items belongs to the student, keeping an eye on a peer’s possessions is everyone’s responsibility.

Officer Nygaard agrees that having a neighborhood watch would be a good source of security on campus.

“Most thieves operate on opportunity. If you should see something, report it. Pay close attention to distinctive characteristics and descriptions,” Nygaard said.

If a thief is caught and there is a large enough dollar amount on what has been stolen, the suspect risks being charged with a felony. There are two forms of discipline on a college campus. When a perpetrator is identified, their crime is brought before the University for disciplinary action and criminal charges are also made, Trende said.

“We all want to be trusting, but we let our guard down a little too often,” Nygaard said. “By that time, often times it’s too late.”

Trende said that the University police’s concern is stopping the theft that has been happening on campus. UWRF is still one of the safer campuses in the area, and they hope to keep it that way.