Burglary, theft haven’t disappeared during remote instruction

The only crimes reported since students have transitioned to remote instruction have been burglaries and thefts. ORACLE PHOTO

Even though the USF on-campus population has significantly decreased, University Police (UP) have still dealt with burglary and theft since the transition to remote instruction in March. 

Since March 23 — the first day of remote classes following spring break — there have been four crime alerts all related to stolen property. 

Three burglaries and one theft case have occurred in an approximate two-week period since being remote, according to the most recent logged crimes on UP’s crime alert page.

On March 23, there was a “burglary of conveyance,” in which several vehicles were burglarized on campus in Parking Lot 5A, located next to the Marshall Student Center and Student Health Services.

Two days later, another burglary of conveyance occurred at USF’s Riverfront Park. A man entered a vehicle and stole the victim’s personal belongings, including his credit card and proceeded to use it at a “local merchant.”

The next burglary was two weeks later, on April 8. A building at USF’s golf course, The Claw, located across Fletcher Avenue from USF, was broken into and several items were stolen. 

The most recent crime alert was of a theft that occurred April 13. The suspect asked to borrow a student’s phone and proceeded to make a virtual financial transaction that removed funds from the student’s account. 

These instances of burglary and theft could be a concern for students who have left their belongings on campus amid last-minute departures from their residence halls. 

But Assistant Vice President of Housing and Residential Education Ana Hernandez assured that there’s an appropriate amount of security when it comes to the dorms. 

The card access to the residential halls has been disabled, and the live-in staff, as well as security, continue to monitor the dorms.

“When students left for spring break, they closed their doors and locked their rooms, and that is the condition they will find them when they return,” Hernandez said in a previous Oracle article.

Although the majority of students have left campus, there are still about 300 students living in the dorms. 

“The police department continues normal patrol patterns, to maintain a safer environment for those remaining on campus,” said UP spokesperson Audrey Clarke. “In addition to normal police patrol, SAFE Team maintains a nighttime presence in residential areas, acting as extra eyes and ears when not providing their normal escort services.”

SAFE Team is a service that offers escorts, typically via golf carts, to USF students who feel unsafe walking alone at night. Its website states that the service is currently unavailable and it is providing “additional support to [UP]” at this time.

Even with the additional help, Clarke said UP is still concentrating its patrol in the residential areas of campus.

“With a reduced residential population, we concentrate our efforts in those areas to enhance the sense of safety for our resident students,” said Clarke. 

Engagement with people and investigating possible crimes or disturbances in the USF community could be tricky to maneuver for UP officers, considering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines of maintaining a 6-foot distance. 

“Through our training protocols and other informational pathways, our officers are kept apprised of CDC recommendations and manage their patrol patterns and community contacts accordingly,” said Clarke. “They remain prepared to take law enforcement actions whenever and wherever necessary, using reasonable and appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] when circumstances dictate.”

PPE consists of wearable items such as gloves and masks to prevent germs from spreading. 

The CDC recommends that officers have PPE that includes a single pair of disposable gloves, a disposable set of coveralls, eye protection and a face covering. 

Clarke said it is up to the officers to decide how and when they use their PPE. 

“Members have been trained in the proper use of PPE,” said Clarke. “Due to COVID-19 guidance, the department has relaxed our uniform standards to allow officers to wear face coverings at any time they wish to do so. PPE use is encouraged, and at times required. However, use is typically left up to each member’s discretion based upon the circumstances in which they are involved.”

As COVID-19 continues to evolve, UP will keep up with the changes it brings the USF community. 

“We are providing guidance from medical and legal professionals to our staff on how to best police our community while keeping our employees as safe as possible,” said Clarke.