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ISSUE 116 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2003

Burglaries increase on campus

By Jane Dudzinski
News Editor

Friday, April 11, 2003

Although some may consider St. Olaf to be in a rural location, it is no longer isolated from one of the most prominent characteristics of city living: crime. Throughout the 2002-2003 school year, the crime rate, specifically in terms of burglaries, has significantly risen on campus.

During this year alone, there have already been 15 burglaries that date from March 31, 2003, according to statistics provided by the Office of Public Safety. A handbook distributed by public safety called "FYI: Information for the St. Olaf Community" defines that burglary as ‘the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a theft.’

Since the 1991-1992 school year, there have been an average of 12 burglaries per year, with specific numbers varying from five to 20 each year. Last year, St. Olaf had six burglaries; this year’s totals represent a 150 percent increase.

One particular issue involved in burglaries from residence hall rooms has been that of laptops. According to Fred Behr, director of Public Safety, seven laptops have already been stolen this year, compared to one last year. Behr also said that in all of the situations this year, the rooms from which laptops were stolen had been left unlocked.

No actual break-ins have occurred, and the majority of burglaries have happened during early to late evening, Behr said. Very few burglaries take place between midnight and 6:00 a.m., except in what Behr called an "alarming" recent situation in which a laptop was stolen while a student was sleeping.

Although burglaries have occurred in almost every dormitory on campus, both Mohn and Hoyme Residence Halls have been "areas of concern, after looking at the statistics," Behr said. Both of these dormitories have historically had a higher crime rate than other dorms.

Since these crime increases on campus, many people have began to discuss the possibility of implementing the use of a 24-hour key card in residence halls.

"I would advocate taking that step, if I thought it were actually outside people [committing these crimes]," Behr said.

He went on to explain that the perpetrators are most likely either St. Olaf students and friends or visitors of St. Olaf students, who could legitimately be in a hall without anyone noticing. In these situations, Behr pointed out, no one would think twice about students or people that looked like students as being "out of place" and cause for alarm.

In addition to students locking their rooms whenever possible, Behr also recommended another method of preventing permanent crime repercussions: recording the model and serial numbers of valuable belongings, such as laptops or cameras. Next fall, Behr said that there will be a "hard push for students to take inventory on whatever students consider valuable in their room."

Another option Behr suggested is making use of the Operation Identification program, which has been in place at St. Olaf for over 15 years, in spite of its "limited success." This program allows students to engrave their belongings with a personal identification number. However, this system has generally been unpopular because students often want to sell many of their belongings at the end of their four-year college experience.

In direct contrast with the sudden rise of burglaries on campus, the number of larcenies on campus during the school year has significantly fallen. Similar to a burglary in the theft aspect of the crime, a larceny does not involve trespassing. Instead, Behr explained, larcenies often occur during a gathering or party situation, where the perpetrator has actually been invited into the room.

Since the 1991-1992 school year, there have been an average of 101 larcenies every year. Some years have had a few as 61, where others have had 133. As of March 31, 2003, there have only been 40.

Again, the Office of Public Safety reminds students to keep their doors locked whenever possible to avoid an increase of crime in the future.

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