Police chief: Only students can prevent theft
Money and merchandise will be changing hands frequently at UH this fall, and it is important for students to take responsibility for their personal property and report stolen articles, UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis said.
"If it’s your property and you don’t keep your eyes on it, there’s a 50-50 chance it’s going to walk off," Davis said. "Those are your odds."
During the past year, 74 wallets, 68 laptop computers, 63 textbooks, 48 cell phones and 38 bicycles were reported stolen to UHPD. Davis said some of these were recovered, but many were not. These items probably ended up being hawked at neighborhood pawnshops or sold back to bookstores.
Thieves look for whatever is available, Davis said, and nothing is off limits. The department has had reports of stolen cars, microwave ovens, mini-fridges and even toilet paper. From luxury items to bare essentials, if you can buy it, it can be stolen.
"I don’t care how many cameras, police officers or security officers we have – it comes down to being personally responsible for yourself and your property," Davis said.
Davis does not believe skilled pickpockets are to blame for the loss of so many wallets. He attributes these losses mainly to the complacency of the owners.
"Some people will go through the line in the cafeteria and simply leave it on the tray," Davis said.
Losing a wallet not only means losing cash. It also means losing credit cards, insurance information, driver’s licenses and students IDs.
Davis recommends marking important items to distinguish them from others. This can deter theft as well as aid in recovery, Davis said.
"Engrave your things. We have engravers available for checkout. We have a bicycle registration program you can sign up for," Davis said.
When attempting to claim items that have been turned in to UHPD, the burden of proof is on the person claiming ownership. Davis said this is why it is so important to personalize your things.
"We have a ton of stuff that wasn’t marked or engraved just sitting in a room. The owner’s couldn’t claim it because their tape recorder or whatever looks like every other tape recorder," Davis said.
Textbooks are among the most important possessions college students have. They are also easily modified, increasing the owner’s odds of recovering stolen or missing books, Davis said.
Davis urges students to always report stolen or missing items, no matter what it is. This information allows the department to serve and protect the University more efficiently.
"It lets us build patterns and figure out what’s going on and where it’s going on," Davis said. "If we don’t know there’s a problem with stuff coming up missing on the fourth floor of the library, we’re not watching the fourth floor of the library."
Crimes on campus are usually crimes of opportunity, Davis said. It is the student’s job to cut down the criminal opportunities. Lock up your bike. Mark up your books. Keep your wallets and cell phones in your pocket or purse. And if you see an officer on campus, say hello.
"Most of them are really nice people," Davis said.