How to avoid becoming a victim of theft on campus

Riana Braselman

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Theft is one of the most common crimes that occurs on campus with 48 instances of it being reported since January. Police Lieutenant Patrick Gipson with the University Police Department gave advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of theft and what to do if it occurs. 

Bicycles and unattended items are the most frequently stolen objects.

“Based on the types of thefts that are reported to us, the two most common are bicycles being stolen and unattended property being stolen,” said Gipson.

He explained the importance of registering a bike on campus and acquiring a proper lock.

“Bicycles, the ones that are being stolen, very few of them are locked,” said Gipson. “Most of them are left unsecured on bike racks somewhere. The easiest way to prevent that, of course, is to lock your bicycle. Many of the bicycles that are stolen are not registered with the police department, and it makes it a little bit harder to get it back to the owner even if we do find it. So registering your bicycle is a good first step. When I say locked, I don’t mean a cheapy little lock. It needs to be something that is going to be securing the bicycle and is going to be difficult to defeat. The U-Bolt style locks are the best. The smaller ones, the little chain locks or the little cable locks are going to have in-line combinations. Those are very easy to defeat, so while it does give the appearance that your bicycle is locked, it really isn’t locked that well.”

As for unattended items, Gipson suggested to simply stay near one’s items.

“The easiest way to prevent that, of course, is not to leave your item unattended,” said Gipson. “It includes wallets, backpacks, laptops, so if you put it down and walk away from it, somebody else will probably pick it up and walk away with it. So we ask that students and employees keep track of their items. Keep them secure or keep them on your person. If you put something down, then it needs to be within your eyesight at all times. The moment you lose it, it only takes a second for someone to pick something up and walk away with it, so that’s the best way to prevent those.”

If an item does go missing, it is highly encouraged to report it as soon as possible.

“If someone took something of yours, give us a call,” said Gipson. “The sooner, the better. Sometimes a person may be in the area, and we might be able to help find something. We might be able to get your stuff back. If you wait an hour or even a couple days in some cases then it’s much more difficult to assist in getting people’s property back or identify who might of taken it.”

Gathering information is the UPD’s first step in the process of trying to locate a stolen item. 

“We want to find out everything about the item, everything about the situation that led to the item becoming missing, where they think the item might have been,” said Gipson. “Sometimes some victims have an idea of who might have taken their item, and we need that information. That’s very helpful. Even if they’re not sure, it can be helpful at least to maybe clear somebody of a situation, and then start narrowing that down if that happened.”

According to Gipson, it is best to keep the serial number of one’s cell phone in a secure place just in case the phone itself is stolen.

“Serial numbers are very important especially on high value items, so if you do have one of the new iPhones, they’re very expensive, but you don’t have the serial number, its going to be hard to get it back,” said Gipson. “Even if we find what looks like it could be your cell phone, we can’t just take it from someone and give it to you if you say it’s yours because we can’t prove it’s yours. Having a serial number is very important for situations like that.”

Gipson explained that the consequences for being caught for theft vary according to the situation.

“That depends on a great number of factors,” said Gipson. “It depends on the situation involved. It depends on the value of the item that was stolen. It depends on if the item was recovered and returned to the victim. A lot of it hinges on what the victim wants to do. If the victim wants to file criminal charges, we can move forward with criminal charges. If it’s a high value item and the victim wants criminal charges, it could amount to a felony in which case they would have a criminal record the rest of their life. Other times, many victims, if it turns out that the person was a student and the student gives the property back, then quite often the victims are wanting to go forward with criminal charges, and they’ll go through a student conduct hearing office and try to get some kind of resolution that way.”

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How to avoid becoming a victim of theft on campus