UHPD comments on its varied response to cell phone theft

The UHPD motto is ‘Effort, Respect.’  |  Julie Heffler/The Daily Cougar

The UHPD motto is ‘Effort, Respect.’  |  Julie Heffler/The Daily Cougar

A student was struck on the back of his head and then robbed of his cell phone Oct. 30 in a parking lot located off of Elgin Avenue and Cullen Boulevard. A second robbery was attempted on another student at 8:27 p.m. Friday near the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.

The former incident was reported to UH Police Department, but a security alert was not sent out to students. Instead, UH Department of Public Safety sent out an e-mail the next day urging students to be smart while using smartphones. For the latter incident, a security alert was sent out by UHDPS at 11:28 p.m. that same evening.

“The incident that occurred on the 30th was considered for an immediate crime alert, but was recognized as not necessarily meeting the criteria. Ultimately it was decided that even if an alert was not required, we wanted to make sure the community was aware of related trends we were seeing. The most appropriate alert we could send, the one that would be most helpful to the community, was one highlighting the increasing instances of cell phone related crimes, including ones like the incident on the 30th,” said Lt. Bret Collier, in an e-mail.

“The incident this past weekend was similar in many ways to the previous, although the phone was not ultimately taken. The nature of the crime, combined with its similarity to another recent crime was enough for our staff to recognize that there may be a continuing threat, triggering a crime alert.”

Cell phone thefts have been increasing across the country and UHPD thought it was better to provide information on how to avoid becoming a victim, said UH Chief of Police Ceaser Moore.

Students on campus have opposing views on reporting incidents.

“I appreciate that they tell us to be mindful, but if it is happening on our campus, I think we should have been alerted,” said Stephanie Reyes, finance junior.

Isaiah Colin, business freshman, said he was fine with the way UHPD handled the situation.

“I think the police department made the right choice by telling us of this new trend, instead of alerting us and possibly scaring people on campus,” said Colin.

These security alerts are sent out after serious criminal activity, Moore said.

“Following every serious crime that occurs on or near the campus, UHPD looks at several factors to determine if a crime alert is appropriate, including the timeliness of the report and if there is a serious and sustained threat to the community,” Moore said.

“UHPD is required to issue crime alerts for crimes that they feel represent a serious and continuing threat to the campus community. This is a requirement of the Clery amendment to the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act.”

The Cleary amendment also requires that every crime that is reported to the police department is posted on the crime bulletin to inform the community.

UHPD looks at the details of the case to determine if it is worthy of sending out an alert to students.

“Crimes that are reported to UHPD, campus security authorities or local police agencies and are considered to represent a serious or continuing threat to students and employees will receive a crime alert,” Collier said in an e-mail.

“Both of these elements are to a degree subjective, so our staff considers every crime and whether it meets these elements and what response would be most helpful to the University community.”

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  • Given that there’s been recently 2 cellphone based robberies in the same day (12/18/2012), it’s pretty worrying. I’m not sure the crime rates at other college campuses around Houston, but UH seems to have a crime epidemic this year.

    One has to wonder if it’s the same person. The next victim could be anyone, including you.

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