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Campus Saftey: Your Responsibility?

Sarah Lim’s bike had a name: Ross. Ross was a vintage brown, cruiser-style bike that Lim inherited from her dad, and had faithfully transported her around campus since her freshman year. Then one night this September, Lim went to get her bike for a trip to Bubble Island, and discovered it was missing.

“I walked back and forth across the building like three times, because I thought I must have forgotten where I left it,” the 19-year old said. “Finally I had to admit that it must have been stolen. Poor Ross. I miss him.” Students who don’t take sufficient safety precautions, such as locking doors or using U-locks to protect bikes, may be partially to blame for incidents of crime on campus according to MSU police.

Lim, a supply chain management sophomore who used a cable lock for her bike, had not registered it with the MSU police. MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said she doesn’t feel sorry for Lim, and though the MSU police are trying to get students to take more responsibility in their actions, the results haven’t been positive.

“Nothing is working,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “And I’m becoming a bit frustrated because I don’t know what else to do.” McGlothian-Taylor said accounts of all incidents reported to the MSU police are published in the State News and police are contacting staff in the dorms and other buildings encouraging them to reinforce safety measures. But often, students don’t heed these warnings. McGlothian-Taylor said that bike thefts have increased to about 280 so far this school year, and there has also been a rash of laptop thefts on campus recently.

Many students, such as economics sophomore Dan Zaharia, 19, recognize that their actions aren’t always exactly smart. “I know for sure that I don’t keep track of my stuff as well as I should,” Zaharia said. “Like the other night, in the library, I went to go look for books and I left my computer right on the desk, all of my books there.”

McGlothian-Taylor said this is just the kind of behavior that is resulting in thefts such as that of a $2,400 Dell laptop from a graduate student in Erickson Hall and a $1,799 MacBook Air from a professor in the Food Safety and Toxicology Building this year.

Although most students acknowledge that they have a part to play in keeping themselves safe, many wish security on campus were better. “Security here is really bad,” said Tori Johnson, a finance sophomore. “It’s easy for someone to get hurt or for something to happen.”

Johnson, 19, lived in Case Hall last year, during the incidents where an unidentified man was soliciting donations from residents of several dorms. On Jan. 21, 2009, an 18-year-old student was sexually assaulted by this man in East Holden Hall, according to a State News police brief. Johnson said one of her friends was also approached by him. “She went to give him money but she made the mistake of keeping the door wide open, and turning her back on him,” Johnson said. “And that potentially could have gone wrong, like she could have been attacked. Luckily, she got him out of her room and nothing happened.”

Other students also express concern about their safety on campus. Supply chain management freshman Julie Molnar, 19, said she “definitely doesn’t feel 100 percent safe on campus.” Molnar lives in Abbot Hall and said she thinks a lot of students are oblivious to any threats of danger. “I think we’re all really naïve,” Molnar said. “If something happened, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

Ed Tillett, the resident director for Emmons Hall, agreed that many students don’t have an accurate perspective of the danger of living on such a large campus. “All too often a lot of students see this as this insulated bubble, but Michigan State really is kind of like a big city,” Tillett said. “We have our own water system, police department, fire and safety, etcetera and the same things that they would do at home they need to bring with them and do here,” he said.

McGlothian-Taylor also compared MSU to a city, adding that unlocked doors are one of the major issues causing crime on campus. “Your room within a residence hall is … where you live, you should view that like your home,” she said. “If you lived in the city, you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, you would lock it. You should lock your room door.”

Rachel Silva, an OCAT aide in Hubbard Hall, said unlocked doors can be an open invitation to thieves, and in halls with suite-style bathrooms, this leaves you as well as your suitemates vulnerable. Silva, a 19-year-old packaging sophomore, said two of her resident’s rooms were robbed because one was unlocked. The thief robbed the first room, then went through the bathroom and stole from the adjoining room as well. “I think most students have a level head,” Silva said. “But I even have moments like, yes, you can call me an idiot, but it just slipped my mind, you know, I forgot to lock my doors.”

Members of MSU staff and police are urging students to try to remember common sense safety precautions, but are also adding security measures of their own. Green emergency boxes were installed in Mary Mayo hall when it was renovated over the past year. “No matter where you stand in Mary Mayo you’ll be able to see a green light phone to use,” said Ryan McKinney, a  facilities manager for the Brody and West Circle neighborhoods. “If there’s ever an incident you can go and hit the green light phone because there’s one within your line of sight.”

In addition, several halls including Holden, Snyder-Phillips and Emmons have adopted a system where residents must swipe their IDs to get into the living wings of the halls.

McGlothian-Taylor said measures such as these help, but ultimately, the responsibility rests on students to do the right thing: lock their doors, don’t leave belongings unattended and most importantly, alert the police if they see something unusual or suspicious going on. “If you see somebody suspicious or see anything suspicious, call 911 immediately, because we can check the person out,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “They may have a warrant out for their arrest, they could be a burglar. We don’t know. Because nobody calls us.”

Unfortunately, nobody called the police to report anything suspicious the night Sarah Lim’s bike got stolen. She says she think she’ll probably get a different bike next year, but definitely not a new one.

“It won’t be the same though,” Lim said. “It won’t be Ross.”

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