Members of Student Government and SG’s ride agency, SAFE Team, staked out bike racks Tuesday, Sept. 18, to try to catch bike thieves – who have stolen nearly 40 bikes since the school year began. Although University Police did arrest one suspect in the thefts, more have occurred after his capture. Officials from UP, moreover, chalk up the increase in bike thefts to a shortage of patrol officers, as the department is losing deputies left and right to other local law enforcement agencies over better pay.
That’s where SG and SAFE Team come in – patrolling campus at night to support UP’s efforts. The agencies’ actual impact on campus security remains questionable.
It is unclear whether the well-publicized push for security, following the embarrassing missteps in SG, will be carried out on evenings when press releases aren’t issued. When patrolling, it’s uncertain what the groups can actually do to combat theft and crime on campus that UP or non-SG individuals cannot.
Consider the context of the last stakeout: SG and SAFE Team split into two groups and monitored the bike racks around the residence halls. As detailed in the Sept. 20 edition of the Oracle, “Two people stood near bike racks nonchalantly while two others waited in golf carts nearby. Members were advised to contact UP immediately if they saw any suspicious activity.”
So, SG and SAFE Team sat and waited for suspicious activity under the assumption they would contact UP if they saw any – just as any resident student, student passer-by or even non-collegiate good Samaritan in the area would be expected
At the end of the night, SG and SAFE Team didn’t catch anyone, though they seemed to have had a close brush with a suspicious person. As described by the Oracle, individuals loitering at the racks “scurried off at the site of patrollers,” Justin Hall, SG director of University
“If they saw us or heard our radios, then they left,” Hall said. He went on to describe one man as particularly suspicious, rushing off when patrollers approached the bike rack. He wasn’t seen for the rest of the evening. However suspicious the man seemed at the time, and however important it seemed to point out that suspiciousness to the Oracle, UP wasn’t called for backup.
It is unclear whether another such stakeout is in the planning stages. SG is looking into the cost of “providing students with bike locks,” and recently received funding for security whistles for students, in light of a series of rapes in the
SG should be praised for its concern over student safety, but it should direct its time, effort and resources to lobbying USF to increase UP’s salaries. Doing so will draw more officers to UP, and foster a long-lasting approach to crime fighting on campus.