Pocket advice on prevention of personal property theft
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 16:06
It’s the middle of the afternoon and the Student Union is bustling. You’re sitting in the third-floor student lounge surrounded by other students studying, eating, surfing the Internet or engaging in conversation. Your table is decked out with your laptop, textbook, written notes, lucky pencil and phone. You’re in the zone, but now you really have to pee.
You maximize Webcourses to cover up Facebook and evaluate your surroundings. You could pocket your phone and make a dash for it, or you could ask a nearby classmate to keep an eye out and pray they’re not a kleptomaniac.
Whatever choice you make, you know theft on campus is a reality.
Larceny arrests have increased at UCF, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement county and municipal arrest data. In 2007, the UCF Police Department made six larceny arrests. As student enrollment swelled more than 20 percent from 48,699 in 2007 to 58,698 in 2011, and with the addition of new police Chief Richard Beary, UCF Police made 34 larceny arrests in 2011, an increase of almost 500 percent.
Sgt. Troy Williamson of the UCF Police Department, who is retiring at the end of this month after almost 30 years of service at UCF, had tried-and-true advice for students.
“Don’t leave [property] unattended in public places,” Williamson said. “Don’t leave [property] in plain sight in a vehicle.”
Kristen Royo, senior finance and marketing major, agrees.
“I would never leave my stuff anywhere,” Royo said. “Even when going into the bathroom, I take my stuff with me.”
While she feels safeguarding her property, especially personal information is important, she finds the campus to be “pretty safe.”
In addition to common sense, UCF Police implemented a property registration system after a spur of laptop thefts from the Library last year. Students can log on and enter their contact and property serial number information in case someone steals their stuff, Williamson said. The information is kept confidential in a FDLE database.
Since the system’s inception, more than 2,400 items have been registered with the property registration system. Each freshman orientation now includes information about the registration system, but Williamson wants more.
“I think that is too low. I want every student to register their property with us,” Williamson said. “If it does get stolen, even if it is off campus, [the deputy] can call UCF Police Department and they can look it up for you.”
There is no value cutoff or limit to what you can register, Williamson said. Bikes are also a popular item stolen from campus. In addition to the registration system, UCF Convocation Corporation had been instrumental in gating Garages E and G from bicycle thieves last year near the Towers at Knights Plaza.
“It used to be a hotspot, but it has since been eliminated,” Williamson said.
Kirsten Koflowitch, a senior majoring in finance, takes precautions by locking her things in her trunk so they are not visible through the windows.
“If I go to the bathroom [on campus], unless I’m with a trusted group of friends, I ask someone if they can watch my stuff really quick,” Koflowitch said.
She thinks the property registration system is a good idea and said that many products can also be registered through the manufacturer. Koflowitch does feel UCF could do a better job of advertising, as her orientation session took place two years before UCF Police started advocating the system at orientations.
“I think they should send out a mass email at the beginning of each semester,” Koflowitch said.
Departments are not immune to theft or missing items, either. Almost $60,000 worth of property has been tagged as missing in UCF’s asset property logs over the past three years, according to UCF Finance & Accounting asset property reports. For reporting purposes, UCF does not categorize items as lost or stolen, UCF News & Information communications coordinator Courtney Gilmartin said in an email. Any university property that is either lost or stolen is classified as “missing” for inventory reports.
The reports logged $17,648.67 worth of inventory missing in 2009, $11,480.66 worth of departmental property missing in 2010 and $30,322.31 went missing in 2011, according to the most recent report available.
The overwhelmingly popular items on the list were Dell and MacBook laptops, cameras and tablet computers. It’s a less than 1 percent drop in the UCF bucket of $824 million total assets in 2011, but Williamson said there are still precautions departments can take, like cataloging a legitimate exchange between two departments so on-the-book information doesn’t conflict. Departments have also gotten better in recent years with clearing surplus property off their books.
“A lot of it is the electronic system they use now to scan barcodes,” Williamson said.