By Ashley Dinges

Daily Staff Reporter

As the installation of electronic locks in residence halls
continues, the University’s Department of Public Safety
reported that the amount of home invasion crimes — thefts
from student rooms and other locked areas — in residence
halls has decreased since the last academic year.

“Our best sense is that the decline in statistics is
related to multiple efforts. It is a combination of restricted
access, lock sets, enhanced communication, education and awareness.
All of those create a multiplier effect for improved safety and
security,” said Housing spokesman Alan Levy.

In the 2001-2002 academic year, there were 99 reported incidents
of home invasion, whereas the following year there were 35 reports.
The preliminary data collected for the fall of 2003 indicates about
13 reports of home invasion.

Capt. Joe Piersante, commander of police services, also said
that the decrease is a result of combined efforts from several
programs.

“Where the camera initiatives and other deterrents were
installed — along with crime prevention programs —
there was a decrease in crime in those buildings,” Piersante
said.

Specific statistics about crimes in residence halls for 2003
will not be available until October, but Piersante said that most
crimes involve theft.

After a rise in burglary and other incidinces, such as peeping
Toms, in residence halls from 2001 to 2002, the halls converted to
being locked 24 hours a day, accessible only by

M-card. In the 2002-2003 academic year, only one peeping Tom
incident was reported, and none have been reported yet this
academic year.

Currently, 10 residence halls feature electronic entry systems
to dorm rooms. Such systems in Mary Markley, Bursley, Vera Baits I
and II, Stockwell and Fletcher residence halls are all projected
for completion in fall 2004.

In addition to the electronic locks, security cameras were also
installed around South Quad, East Quad, Couzens and Stockwell
residence halls. Eventually all halls will have the recording
system.

“They’re just one deterrent of the many we’re
talking about. The awareness is a deterrent because as people
become more aware, they take more precautions,” said Bill
Bess, director of DPS.

Ian Steinman, director of housing security and associate
director of DPS also said another key factor in the prevention is
the Resident Contact Initiative, in which DPS officers work with
residents to promote awareness of crime prevention.

Three times a year, officers go door-to-door throughout each
residence hall, speaking with students about crime prevention and
safety. Each of the three visits has its own theme, such as a
property prevention theme in January.

In April, the officers will be speaking with students about
move-out safety and warning them not to leave items unattended.
Unattended belongings and unlocked doors account for the majority
of DPS-reported instances of theft.

“Security is everyone’s business. One of the most
important things a resident can do to ensure their safety is to
make sure their doors are locked,” Steinman said.

Overall, LSA sophomore Nick Rutledge said students do not seem
to be greatly inconvenienced by the automatic-lock doors, despite
when they are locked out of their dorm rooms. Rutledge is an
employee at the West Quad Residence Hall front desk and a resident
advisor in West Quad.

“A lot of people don’t understand the purpose of
them. They see it like it’s easier to get locked out. I think
it’s frustrating for (students). We try to explain that
it’s a security reason,” Rutledge said.

He also added that the process for changing locks under the old
key system was less organized. In the past, students would be
required to purchase a new door lock, mailbox lock, door keys for
all roommates and a bathroom key if necessary. The cost for these
services could be as high as $37, depending on which services the
student selected.

Now, under the new card system, a resident is given two free
temporary cards per semester in case of a lockout, which are valid
for 48 hours. On the third lockout, residents are charged a fee of
$5. If a card is lost, a new card costs $15. Residents can also
change their password at any time.

“I feel it’s a better organized program. Before,
there was a lot of paperwork,” Rutledge said.

LSA sophomore Ian Hoover, a resident of West Quad, said he is
generally not bothered by the new locks.

“It’s not bad. It’s kind of a pain to have one
on the bathroom. I still lock myself out of my room as much as I
did with keys,” Hoover said.

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the home invasion crimes are
not unique to the dorms, and occur frequently in off-campus housing
as well.

“It’s not a problem unique at all to the residence
halls, it’s a challenge in any community living situation.
The residence halls are vulnerable because of the amount of
traffic. The off-campus housing seems to be vulnerable because of
the inattention that people give to the security measures,”
Brown said.

But despite low levels of crime this year, the University has no
plans to discontinue the programs it has put in place to deter
crimes. “It doesn’t go away because we have better
numbers this year,” Levy said.

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