The best way to deal with crime on campus is to make sure it never happens in the first place, says Brad Allison, the Universitys new crime prevention officer for the Department of Public Safety.
Allison, a bicycle patrol officer, was appointed to be a one-person crime prevention squad for the Department of Public Safety in 1999. He said he decided to take the position when he saw how many times students could avoid becoming a victim of crime simply by recognizing a potential risk and knowing how to prevent it.
"I would rather educate than enforce," he says. "If a student drinks, I want him or her to know the laws. I want to teach personal safety programs."
Allison was certified as a campus crime prevention specialist by the Campus Crime Prevention Program, a national organization, after he attended the 1999 Campus Crime Prevention Seminar in Louisville, Ky. The seminar had a comprehensive program including locks and locking systems, key control and management, security alarms, lighting, closed circuit television, electronic access control, physical security surveys, building security designs, sexual assault prevention, and illegal drug interdiction and abatement.He has been full-time in his position only since January, but he says crime prevention also is a part of the duties of a patrol officer.
As a parent, you may see Allison first at orientation sessions. He speaks to parents at every session and has a table at the activities fair. Hes also willing to speak to residence hall floors, groups of students, or individual students in order to get the safety word out.
Allison will be very visible in residence hall lobbies when students arrive this fall. Hes planning to visit all nine halls for Project ID, a program that helps to protect students belongings. Since theft is the major criminal activity reported on campus, preventing it will go a long way toward lowering overall crime at Iowa, he says.
The project uses stickers on all property that might be stolen. Signs and posters throughout the residence halls tell about Project ID, increasing students awareness that stealing a protected item may increase the likelihood of arrest. They also remind students that the best deterrent to theft is to lock their residence hall room door when theyre away from the room.
Students mark their possessions with the stickers, which bear their Project ID number. This number will be registered at Public Safety, so when a stolen item is recovered, it can be identified and returned to its owner. Store personnel also are warned to record identification from students trying to resell any item with a Project ID sticker, to make sure it is the rightful owner selling it.
Using the stickers can speed reporting of theft incidents, which is very important, Allison says.
"A lot of students dont know the serial numbers of their computers, sound equipment, or other possessions," Allison says. "They say they need to call home to get them, and frequently we never hear back from them. Especially if a computer is stolen, its vital to get the number immediately. We enter the number in the National Crime Information Center system as soon as we get it, making the computer very difficult to sell because stores check the system before buying used equipment. We try to get it in the databank within an hour of the theft."
Textbooks are expensive, and therefore increasingly a target of theft, Allison says. They can be registered with Project ID, too, and lists of numbers of stolen books can be issued to bookstores that buy used texts, Allison says. If a stolen book shows up and the store gets the identification of the seller, an arrest may follow.
"We will keep credit card numbers for students, too, so if a wallet is stolen, they can get all the numbers they will need to report with just one call," he says.
Awareness Is the Key
Project ID is a program at other major universities but is new to The University of Iowa. Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., has had it for three years.
"Emory reported a drop in theft from the program," Allison says. "Part of that probably came from the signs and stickers showing that the program exists. Probably the program makes students more aware of the need for security, too."
Allison says he intends to start his Project ID registrations in residence halls that have a large number of first-year students living in them.
"Ill spend several days in each hall," he says. "I think it will have added impact to have us at a table in the hall for a number of hours. Ill also hand out literature on personal safety tips, drinking and driving, and an introduction to Department of Public Safety services."
Allison encourages students to register their bicycles with Public Safety. Hell hand out the registration forms in the residence halls, but he points out that any Public Safety officer will register bicycles on the spot if a student asks.
"There are a lot of benefits to students who register bikes," he notes. "We can return a stolen bike to its owner when its recovered. If a registered bike is improperly locked on the Pentacrest, the Department of Parking and Transportation knows from the sticker that its a student bike, so theyll contact the student about the illegal parking. If they dont know because the bike isnt registered, theyll cut the lock and impound the bike for this infraction."
At Iowa, alcohol-related offenses and theft are the two major areas of crime reported each year. Allison thinks they work together.
"A lot of what happens is the result of a bad decision, rather than an intent to commit a crime," he says. "Someone living or visiting a friend in a residence hall sees a wallet on a desk in a room. They need money, perhaps for a night on the town, and they take it. Its done quickly, before they think through the consequences."
The biggest deterrent to potential thieves, he says, is for students to lock their doors when theyre not in their rooms.
By Anne Tanner