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UI Police report drop in summer thefts

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | JULY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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New figures from the University of Iowa police indicate that the number of on-campus reported cases of stolen items during the majority of the current summer academic period is on the decline from the same period a year ago.

From May 16 to July 29, UI police reported 27 incidents of thefts on and around university property, a more than 21 percent drop from the same period in 2012.

To date this summer, the UI Hospitals and Clinics, Campus Recreation & Wellness Center, and campus residence halls have seen the highest reported theft numbers.

Last year, 34 reported cases of theft were handed by UI police.

And while the specific drop is encouraging, Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said the force has yet to identify a specific reason, and this crime is unlikely to disappear completely.

“Theft is always going to be an issue,” he said, noting the specific crime is always prevalent on large U.S. college campuses. “My issue is you have to treat each case differently.”

Green said vulnerability for theft is historically heightened in residence halls, office areas, and apartments and homes in and around downtown Iowa City.

Generally speaking, most thieves are looking at things that are most recognizable, Green said.

Any and all electronics, particularly the more portable and newer varieties — from laptops, iPads, cell phones, and MP3 players are highly targeted. Televisions and stereo systems are also commonly taken from places of residence.

They become the theft item of choice because they often lack of owner identification and have a quick turnaround sale.

Green said UI police typically see a spike in reported thefts during move-in dates for campus residence halls and during new leasing periods.

UI police crime-prevention specialist Alton Poole said in the past several years, the department has increased its theft-outreach initiatives in efforts to bring down the frequency of the incidents.

Today, the routine newsletters, posts on Facebook and Twitter, and personal-safety and self-protection classes could very well be a part of the overall reported drop in the number of thefts.

Still, Poole said, challenges persist.

Generally, the Main Library and IMU stand as the two most notable campus buildings with the highest reported theft count throughout the year.

Tyler Jaspering and Justin Wegener, both 20-year-old UI juniors, said they have received no reported thefts while working at the IMU Hub Box Office during the current summer academic session.

The sole noticeable differences, they said, have come about in the arrival of campus security guards to the IMU. Both said they have seen guards’ presence become more apparent and longer about once or twice a week.

Poole said the large percentage of international students who may be unaware of how to go about reporting thefts can skew the full results.

By itemizing valuable items, Poole said, theft situations can become more easily handled. He said by simply taking pictures of the item, and the model and serial numbers, if applicable, when an item is reported lost or stolen, officers can log that information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, where the items can be tracked.

UI accounting and finance junior Yingchen Zhao, 21, said that while she has yet to witness thefts during the fall, spring, or summer semesters, two instances involving her friend’s personal belongings being stolen concern her.

While taking a breaking from studying with her friend in the Pappajohn Business Building library, Zhao said a MacBook Air and skin-care products were stolen.

A week later, she said, her same friend reported someone had stolen her purse and wallet.

None of the reportedly stolen items have been returned, Zhao said.

“Even though campus is generally safe, you have to have street smarts and be conscious of your surroundings,” Poole said. “Mirror what the insurance companies tell you.”


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