Students must be careful to avoid campus property theft

Posted December 4, 2012

By RACHEL JANOSEC
School of Communication
University of Miami

When choosing which university to attend, most students pick one where they feel safe and secure.

Students usually visit the school and get to experience the surrounding areas and campus at night and so on. The college that they end up at is one where they are confident that is a safe and trusting environment. But this is not always the case for college campuses. The best schools are usually the ones in bad and potentially dangerous areas and students must be aware of this.

The UM Police Department at the Bank United Center on campus promoting the Click it or Ticket campaign (Photos by Rachel Janosec).

The UM Police Department at the Bank United Center on campus promoting the Click it or Ticket campaign (Photos by Rachel Janosec).

Officer Wilbur Foster has been on road patrol at the University of Miami Coral Gables campus for 10 years and has seen a lot.

“There is a big false sense of security here on campus and in the surrounding areas. Students feel too comfortable and relaxed about leaving their phones or laptops out and just think everything is replaceable by mom and dad.”

Of course, students choose this school because they feel comfortable and safe here, and this campus is, according to statistics, very safe and secure, but most of the crimes can be prevented if students cared after their possessions more.

Many students feel comfortable with leaving their belongings in the eyes of someone else when they are in the library and have to get up to go to the bathroom or make a quick trip to Starbucks.

Officer Eddie Somarriba, UM Police officer for about nine years, comments on the crime seen on campus.

“The truth is that students victimize each other and about 60 to 80 percent of the crimes on the University of Miami campus are student to student. I deal with so many cases where a student is at blame for another student’s lost computer, phone, or even books. You guys need to watch out for one another if anything,” said Somarriba.

The University of Miami is a private school located within the City of Coral Gables and works with the Coral Gables Police Department for public safety on campus.  Therefore, a substation of the Coral Gables Police Department is set-up on the campus and its main responsibility is to the school.

According to Foster the officers do have the jurisdiction to patrol anywhere in Coral Gables.

The fact that UM has its own police station also contributes to this false sense of security on campus. Richter Library has an officer usually patrolling in the aisles late at night, so students feel as though it’s okay to leave their computer behind as they run to the bathroom.

Officer Wilbur Foster and Officer Eddie Somarriba talking to another police officer about the traffic offense.

Officer Wilbur Foster and Officer Eddie Somarriba talking to another police officer about the traffic offense.

But, if their items are stolen, they sometimes complain that the officers aren’t doing their jobs. Students think all other students are their friends and that no one is a criminal, but property theft is the leading type of crime on campus. The crime of theft is so easily preventable too.

“We try to educate students here on campus more and more about crime so that it doesn’t happen to them, but some just don’t care to listen. I would say crime has gone down over the years because we are educating more. I try to be personable and a familiar face around campus so that I am approachable to students and so that they feel comfortable to come to me with any problems,” said Foster.

Along with personal item theft, robberies and burglaries are also prominent on the campus. In 2008, the school’s crime report stated two robberies on campus.  This number went down in 2009 to only one robbery and then back up to three robberies on campus in 2010. Since then, the school and police force have taken action to inform the students through e-mails and alerts about the crimes so they don’t repeat themselves and Foster strongly believes that these numbers are decreasing.

For burglaries on the UM campus, the numbers are slightly higher, yet have decreased over the years.  On campus in 2008, there was 39 burglaries reported, in 2009 there was 34 and in 2010 there was 33, according to the crime statistics for the Coral Gables campus.

Officer Foster pulling someone over for running a stop sign on campus.

Officer Foster pulling someone over for running a stop sign on campus.

Burglaries are committed more commonly then robberies because burglaries are defined as breaking and entering, into someone’s car for example.  A robbery is when someone steals someone else’s property by force or violence.

Foster said that, over the years, he has seen his fair share of burglaries and about 25 percent of crime in a year is burglary related.

“These numbers have gone down because we are taking more steps to educate students and faculty on how to not be a target of crime. These crimes can be prevented simply by not leaving your iPod or iPhone or money out in the open in the center consul of your car. Don’t tempt people by leaving your laptop out,” Foster explained.

Hate crimes aren’t a problem on UM’s campus, but the second-most prominent crimes are those related to alcohol and drugs.

Liquor law violations varied from year to year on campus from 2008 to 2010.  In 2008, there were 372 liquor violations committed by students.  In 2009 this number skyrocketed to 695 violations and in 2010 it went back down to 430 alcohol related crimes on campus.  Out of the 420 liquor violations committed in 2010, only three of these led to arrests. The crimes committed in this area are mostly due to underage drinking and drunken indecency or college kids acting stupid in the streets while intoxicated.

There are also drug law violations occurring on and around campus. In 2008 there was 71 on campus drug violations, 136 in 2009 and 176 in 2010, so this number is actually rising.  This may be due to more availability of drugs as laws pass or the students being more knowledgeable as to where drugs are as they spend more time in the area.  Out of the 71 drug violation in 2008, seven were arrested, in 2009, 14 were arrested and 23 were arrested in 2010.

The school and the police department, in an effort to bring the number of arrests down and have less students thrown in jail, started a new program called Ulead.  This program helps save students jail time by instead having them go to a drug/alcohol class, do community service and pay a fine of around $400 of fees to the school.  This is a good alternative for the student who just got caught once with drugs and doesn’t want to throw their life away by having a record and being in jail.  With Ulead the felony doesn’t go on the student’s record.

Foster said there are some drug violations on campus.

“There are a fair amount of drug-related crimes.  Drugs are here on campus, but drugs are everywhere, it happens. The drug violations are not always just related to marijuana as many would think, but also Ecstasy and all other kinds,” said Foster.

University of Miami is a private entity, but it is in very close contact to the low-income neighborhood that is directly west of Red Road where many students live. The university is rated as mainly a safe place for students and can be compared to other private universities of its size.

Bucknell University is a private university in Lewisburg, Pa. Bucknell is about an hour away from the states capital of Harrisburg and an hour and a half from the major city of Philadelphia. Bucknell University has about 5,000 undergraduate students enrolled, which is a little more then half of UM, but the campuses do feel similar in size. It is rated as mostly safe as well and has a bad area surrounding it. From 2009-11, there were zero robberies committed on this campus by students.  This number is certainly lower then UM because it is non-existent, but UM wasn’t very high up there either being the most was three in 2010.

Bucknell reported 11 burglaries on campus in 2009, seven in 2010 and 11 in 2011.  These numbers are sufficiently lower then UM, but UM is slightly larger in total population then Bucknell.  These two schools are being compared because student’s who were interviewed from each school seemed to have similar thoughts on their school and how safe it was.

Daniel Lee, alumni from Bucknell University, commented on the crimes and safety on campus.

“For the four years I was on campus, it seemed very safe. I never heard about or witnessed any real violent crimes. Mostly it was just drunk students getting in fights, underage drinking and maybe some theft here and there. I always felt safe when I was on campus especially since we had our own police officers,” said Daniel.

Madeline Hawkes, senior at the University of Miami, also commented about crime and safety on her campus.

“I have never felt threatened when walking around campus at night. There are always people around or cops patrolling. I have heard of people getting their car windows smashed in though and their property stolen, so that would be the only thing to look out for here on campus,” said Madeline.

Bucknell had a few issues with liquor consummation and violations on campus, but little to nothing for drug crimes, and that is the major difference seen between the two schools.  In the year 2009, Bucknell had 28 liquor law violations, they reported 72 in the year 2010 and 27 in 2011. In those same three years the school combined only had eight drug law violations reported on campus.

This information shows how crime rates and safety does vary from campus to campus but it also shows that students all over do have this false sense of security that may or may not be there.

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