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Waldorf Campus Thefts on the Rise

To ensure the safety of your belongings, always keep your room locked. Photo by Shannon Clark

By: Diana Stetson

It seems that warm weather isn’t the only thing that goes missing on college campuses as summer gives way to fall. According to Jason Ramaker, Dean of Students at Waldorf, statistics show that campus thefts rise nationwide in October and November, and our small school in Forest City is no exception.

“We’ve had five reported thefts in the last two weeks,” Ramaker said. “It’s not unusual for college campuses in October to kind of start seeing thefts, that just happens [sometimes]. Students have gotten comfortable with their environment and there’s one or two out there that will take advantage of that.”

Ramaker says unlocked bikes or medications in unsecured areas are popular targets.

“What we want to say to students: ‘It’s not a crisis, but some thefts are happening,’” Ramaker adds.

As students become more comfortable in their routine and with their surroundings, they forget to take precautions to secure their valuables, making theft easy. Watches, wallets, cash, bikes, medications and high-value clothing items often get stolen, but Ramaker says the most popular items with thieves over the past five years are electronics and gaming systems.

“It’s someone that you know and someone that’s around you,” Ramaker said. “It’s not this random Forest City person, generally speaking, unless we’re talking about cars. If it’s something in the dorms, it’s someone that’s probably been in your room [before].”

Sometimes, it’s a student who might not be returning to campus who takes advantage of an opportunity. In other cases, Ramaker says thieves work as experienced teams.

“When we see it on camera and we’ve caught these incidents it’s: ‘Wow, these are little professionals.’ These are people who aren’t doing it for the first time; these are people that have thought about it–that have premeditated it.

“Sometimes it’s a couple that plans it,” Ramaker said. “We’ve seen it in the bookstore: someone will distract the bookstore people and then someone else will go to a clothing area and [steal items]. All it takes is one, or two, or three students out of the 600 we have [on campus].”

So what can students do to protect their belongings?

“Take steps to lock your car doors, lock your room doors [and] talk to your roommate,” Ramaker said. “Just make sure if you have valuables to keep them secure, because things can happen.

“They’re not breaking into areas…we’re not seeing what I would call robbery, which is breaking [into] an area with a weapon,” Ramaker added. “So I don’t think students have to feel unsafe in that sense. It’s things that are unattended.”

While some thefts are crimes of opportunity, others are for a quick profit. Ramaker says some medications can bring $50 per pill, making the thief a quick $300 or $400.

And then other thefts are simply for convenience, often the case when bikes go missing.

“‘It’s starting to get cold. I don’t want to walk all the way down to the DJAC, so here’s a bike,’ and people around here think things are safe so they don’t lock it up,” Ramaker said. “‘I’m just going to grab the bike and go, and maybe I’ll return it, maybe I won’t.’

“It’s not like they’re stealing bike after bike after bike and selling them at the pawn shop. [For] half of the bike thefts, [convenience is] what it is.”

Along with locking up bikes and doors, Ramaker adds that students can purchase property insurance if they are worried about their belongings.

He also encourages students to report suspicious activities to the office of Student Life or the Waldorf security department, and that these reports can lead to positive results and assist in warning students of potential problems.

Ramaker adds that other services for student safety are also available, including security escorts from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. for students walking on campus alone.

Of course, the best way to avoid being a victim of theft on campus is to simply lock up your valuables: lock your car and room doors, lock up your bikes and lock up medications.

After all: “College campuses are great places to steal. You’ve got young people that have stuff and they don’t really pay extra attention to keeping it locked up,” Ramaker said.