Students seemed more concerned that Public Safety officers and security would be checking residence hall rooms to see if they were locked than having their personal items stolen. It is a misconception that the police will be checking doorknobs to see if the dorm room doors are locked. Public Safety is following through with protocall so that while they make rounds in the residence halls, they will be checking doors that are open to make sure that one resident is in the room. If the room is unoccupied, the door will be closed and locked by Public Safety. Lieutenant Ray Stevenson, Public Safety Department, informed the Resident Assistants (RAs) that there might be a lot of lock-outs in the fall semester. The reason for this program is to prevent theft from occurring. It could take only a matter of minutes for theft to occur, especially with a room noticeably unoccupied.
During community policing, if any officer or security guard finds a room unoccupied with the door open, they will fill out a yellow paper that says:
“NOTICE: This is to advise you that while you were out a WCU police officer noticed that your room and valuables were not secure. We encourage everyone to take precautions to reduce the opportunity for theft by remembering to lock the door each time you leave no matter how long you will be gone. If you have any questions, feel free to call Public Safety at 610-436-3311 and ask for the officer noted below.”
The notice will list the day this occurred, at what time, as well as which officer, with their badge number, noticed the unoccupied room and locked the door behind them.
This notice is presented to inform the residents that they could have been a victim of theft. It is done to help students realize that they need to protect their own belongings. Students who lock their doors when they are not in the room are not likely to be a victim of theft.
This program is about preventing crime, allowing people to take responsibility for themselves, their roommate(s) and the personal belongings in the room. Public Safety is taking this precaution to prevent crime and to be “proactive as opposed to reactive.”
If students lock their door to their room when they leave, this could prevent 7 percent of theft on campus. Public Safety has noticed that “students are listening” by taking precautions to secure their rooms.
On Public Safety’s web site, www.wcupa.edu/dps, students can register their valuable belongings. To register, the serial number and model number are needed. Students can also list the approximate value of the item. Items that are stolen that are registered can be checked through NTIC. All law enforcement agencies can run a stolen item’s serial and model numbers. If an item has been pawned, agencies would be able to track its path as long as it is registered.
It would take too much time to check every door, in every wing, on every floor of the dorm, Stevenson said. As Public Safety officers and security guards make their rounds, one responsibility of their jobs will be to make sure that a room with an open door has a resident inside. This is an “incentive to lock your door, carry your keys and ID.”
With over 13,000 enrolled students at WCU, Public Safety “cannot be everywhere.” Rounds begin at 8 p.m. in residence halls, which is the same time a security officer begins their guard shift on the first floor.
The reason for Public Safety checking unoccupied rooms is so that the residents learn responsibility for their personal belongings. A lock-out may not occur if the resident returns to the room, however the Public Safety officer can decide to document it without physical action. The lock-out occurrences that Public Safety notices can be reported to ResLife.
Each month the number of lock-out notices by Public Safety will be reviewed. Students will not receive a judicial penalty for getting a lock-out notice. The lock-outs are reviewed for patterns of which residence halls and specific wings have left rooms unattended. In the case that one specific area has residents leaving their room unattended for periods of time, the RAs will have to have a floor meeting to discuss the need to lock residence hall rooms.
Students “need to help each other out” by telling friends to lock their doors when they leave. Public Safety wants residents to be cautious of their belongings. This is an effort to help the students.
If a dorm room door is open and no students are inside, theft is more likely to occur. Theft has occurred in previous years in the residence halls.
Stevenson said it is very common for a resident to report a theft in a residence hall to realize that there was another theft close to that particular time. There could be a rash of thefts in one specific area of the residence halls, although not all crimes were being reported.
Theft is more likely to occur at night because residents are more likely to leave their doors open and unoccupied at a late hour rather than during the day, as students are in class during these hours. According to Stevenson, over the past few years theft has occurred more on Thursday nights than any other time of the week.
This program was used in past years and has been “resurrected” this year with the approach of giving awareness to students and parents. Stevenson said that Public Safety will be speaking at orientations, at floor meetings in residence halls and with RAs.
Parents and roommates can only do so much to tell students in residence halls and apartments to lock the door. The responsibility is on the owner to keep personal belongings safe and secure.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a third-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.