The University Record, March 11, 2002

DPS increasing visibility

By Diane Brown
Facilities and Operations

Several reports of crimes in U-M residence halls this academic year have attracted increasing attention. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued 11 crime alerts since the end of October for reports of theft in residence halls and Peeping Toms in women’s restrooms.

“What is different this year is the frequency with which the perpetrators are being seen,” says William Bess, director of DPS. “These criminals are conducting their crimes in broad daylight and aren’t covering their heads or faces to conceal their identities. They look like students, so they easily blend in.”

The majority of the reported unlawful entries did not involve force. Entry most often was obtained through unlocked doors. DPS has dedicated additional staffing and security resources to address this situation. Detectives have solved one-third of the residence hall theft cases this academic year and have strong leads for many others. Suspects have been apprehended in several cases and two of the crime alerts have been cancelled.

“We are working diligently to gain solid information to submit to the prosecutor’s office in order to obtain arrest warrants,” Bess says. “So far, we are fortunate that most of the crimes have been against property, and no one has been injured.”

DPS has increased patrols in the residence halls by adding housing security officers and police officers from each shift since early February.

“We are increasing our visibility in the halls,” says Lt. Joseph Piersante, DPS police services manager. “But we are dependent on the residents and staff to provide more ‘eyes and ears.’ If anyone observes something or someone they believe is suspicious, we’d like them to call DPS immediately. The quicker our response can be, the higher our chances are that we can catch these people.”

The DPS communications center can be reached by dialing 911 from any campus telephone, by simply lifting the receiver of any emergency phone in the elevators or at outside locations, or by dialing 763-1131 from a cell phone.

“Reducing the opportunities for crime is still our No. 1 crime prevention method,” Bess says. “We need all residents to treat their rooms as they would their houses and lock the doors when they leave or when they are sleeping. Everyone should keep their personal items, such as wallets, purses and backpacks, secure. Never leave them out in the open or unattended even for a few minutes!

“Unfortunately, we have several people who are trying to make a living preying on our University community. We need to all work together to help put them out of business.”