Responding to increased criminal activities in University residence halls, the Department of Public Safety has created a canine unit. Two tracking and bomb-sniffing dogs currently assist police when investigating criminal activities on campus.
“We have considered a canine squad for a few years, but increased campus crime forced us to hasten our plans,” DPS Director Bill Bess said. The dogs were purchased in February.
In addition to the new canine unit, which Bess stressed “is only used to track suspects and investigate campus crime – not to search for drugs,” DPS has increased the number of police patrolling residence halls and has instituted a 24-hour locked door policy.
“It is much more effective for DPS to increase the number of police patrolling the residence halls than it is for the residence halls to be locked 24-hours a day,” LSA sophomore Kevin Gray said. “More police may deter crime, but the locked doors don’t because people are able to get in by following after students who swipe their cards.”
The overall crime rate is not significantly higher this year than it has been during the last few years, but the number of peeping tom cases has increased, Housing Security Director Ian Steinman said.
The increasing crime rate has also forced the University to explore a number of other security options, Bess said.
“We understand the current criminal behavior in the residence halls is unacceptable,” Bess said. “Peeping toms, thefts, break-ins and assaults have gotten a lot of publicity. We are working with the community to stop this.”
The most important thing the University community can do is to understand the risk and act accordingly, Steinman said.
“We have sent two mass e-mails to all residence hall residents alerting them to the current situation and what they can do to protect themselves,” Steinman said. “Students need to know to lock their doors and to report suspicious people in their residence hall.”
South Quad resident and LSA sophomore Jake Brege said he understands the need to secure the residence halls, but locking the outside doors is not an effective practice.
“Locking the outside doors is more of an inconvenience than a help,” Brege said.
“The police patrols are a good idea, but they should be more proactive. They should do more detective work, rather than just walking around.”
To help students understand the new security measures, the MSA Campus Safety Commission sponsored a panel discussion regarding residence hall safety last night at the Michigan Union.
“In light of the increase in residence hall crime, we wanted to provide a forum for students to voice their concerns and listen to University security officials,” Jenny Nathan, MSA campus safety co-chairman, said.
DPS has issued a $1,000 reward for information leading to the successful arrest of suspects involved in the peeping tom incidents in the residence halls. If you have any information, contact Sgt. Tim Shannon or Sgt Melissa Overton of DPS at 763-1131 or call the University’s anonymous tip-line at 1-800-863-1355.