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Campus auto vandalism sparks SafePark idea

Earlier this month, University Police reported that the rates of auto burglaries have drastically fallen from being one of the highest, during an eight-week period in the fall semester, to one of the lowest during the first eight weeks of the spring.

During that peak period, however, Brandon Faza’s new Dodge Ram was vandalized.

Faza, a Student Government senator who is running for student body president, had just purchased the vehicle when it was keyed severely.

Then, during the Thanksgiving break, Christine Calandro, a friend of Faza’s, walked out to her car and found her car with one less wheel, left on a block.

Faza and Calandro put their heads together and thought that perhaps there was a possibility to increase parking lot security and to increase the number of eyes in parking lots to deter criminals. They came up with the idea of having USF students who are in the Salvation Army’s Misdemeanor Intervention Program monitor the parking lots. “The motivation for this program stems from the fall semester,” said Faza. “We want to make sure that what happened last fall never happens again.”

Bay News 9 caught wind of the idea, called SafePark, and featured it in early January. This caught the attention of University Police, which approached Faza after seeing the story.

“We’re glad that the students are interested in having an impact on crime at USF, and we are more than willing to support them,” said Sgt. Mike Purcell of University Police. “Our role so far has been limited to providing input when asked and offering them any support they need with the program.”

Faza took his and Calandro’s idea to the Senate in January. The Senate then formed a temporary or ad hoc committee, the Protect Our Vehicles and Safety Committee.

Since then, the idea of having students from the MIP program become involved in SafePark has been phased out because there were not enough students in the program, Faza said. The focus of SafePark is still on patrolling parking lots that have been hit the most.

Although the number of burglaries has drastically dropped, Faza said it is probably due to increased awareness because of the amount of burglaries.

“We still want to create this program to increase safety in the parking lots, period,” Faza said.

In addition to the new SafePark proposed initiative, which is going in front of the Senate next Tuesday to request funding, the SG committee hopes to implement another initiative that would be separate, but would support SafePark.

The second proposed initiative is a possible partnership between SG and University Police in which the two would split the cost of a new motorcycle.

“The success of the motorcycle comes when it permits a quick response,” Faza said. “If there’s a spot a car can’t get to, the motorcycle can.”

So far, the SG committee has its focus on correcting problems such as inadequate or nonexistent parking lot/campus lighting and inadequate amounts of patrolling by police units, but its ultimate goal is to promote safety for vehicles and people.

It seems to be needed since Faza’s truck — which is bedecked in USF logos — was vandalized again last week, this time with what appears to have been a baseball bat.

“It has just given me renewed motivation,” Faza said.

Faza said the committee will meet Monday to discuss the budget for the program.