Tips for UCF students to avoid falling victim to crime
Video: UCFPD on Automobile Burglary. Community relations officer Joel Witherspoon walks UCF News through a parking garage on campus pointing out cars that could be targeted by criminals. Video by Arnold Godoy, Central Florida Future Video by Arnold Godoy, Central Florida Future
Take a moment and think about where your valuable items are located. Whether they are in your home or have been left in your vehicle, do you feel confident that they are safe from burglars?
It may be difficult to know for sure if your home or vehicle is safe from crime, but it is not impossible.
Here are some crime-prevention tips that may help in decreasing the crime in vehicles and homes on and off campus:
When students park their cars on or off campus, they are putting their trust in that parking lot or garage. However, it is not guaranteed that their vehicle is protected from burglars.
"You'd be amazed how many of our burglaries that we have, the cars are unlocked," said UCF Police Chief Richard Beary. "You'd be surprised how many we find with the windows down and computers inside the cars."
To prevent vehicle theft, students can:
• Double check that all doors are locked and windows are up before walking away from your car
• Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car; keep valuable items, or items susceptible to theft, with you, at home or stored in the trunk
• Make sure your car is parked in a populated area, not isolated from other cars
• Check up on your parked car once in a while, making sure to not leave your car parked in one spot for too long
UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin said common behaviors of vehicle burglars include: moving from car to car and checking door handles; standing in parking lots or garages and watching people enter or leave; and looking into the windows of cars.
"If [students] would secure their valuables, it would help us immensely," Beary said.
Students may be surprised to hear that vehicle burglaries are "well-spread across campus," although Beary said crime in parking garages may be slightly higher.
To increase safety and prevent vehicle crime, the idea of security cameras in parking garages has raised interest on campus. Due to funding, public records and blind spots, Beary said placing security cameras in garages and around campus may be challenging; hence, UCF Police is strategic in how it uses its resources.
If there is a pattern in the relationship between crime and a specific area, Beary said temporary cameras are put in place.
"We have cameras deployed right now, and people have no idea. I think that is a better use of our resources than to just try to put a camera in every cranny of this campus, it's just not cost effective," he said.
Burglaries can occur in homes on and off campus. Fortunately, there are precautions that students can take to prevent such crime.
Beary said living on campus is safer because UCF Police has jurisdiction up to 1,000 feet off campus, and is able to be directly involved.
"My biggest recommendation I make to parents is if you want to feel good that your child is safe, put them in our housing," Beary said. "If the UCFPD has input in the decision making, your young people are going to be safe with us. I can't say that about going down the road."
To prevent home burglaries, students can:
• Make sure to lock all doors and windows, even when you are home
• Keep valuables out of sight or hidden
• Be careful to not advertise expensive electronics, or when you are going to be out of the house
• Keep your whereabouts and personal information off of social media
• Be sure to never let anyone you don't know into your home
"Ultimately, awareness is the best safety tip," Gilmartin said. "Be conscious of your surroundings, and don't be afraid to call for help if you feel unsafe or suspect suspicious activity."
Off-campus housing is protected through the OCSO background checks on tenants, gated complexes and security guards, which Beary said all make a big difference.
"Pay attention to your surroundings. If something doesn't look right, call us," Beary said.
Who to call
UCF PD: 407-823-5555.
Rachel Stuart is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.
Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @paigeshortstackor email her at PaigeW@CentralFloridaFuture.com.