TCU Daily Skiff Friday, March 12, 2004
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Are you being watched?

Commentary by Jessica Fleming

I’m sure most students noticed a change from the routine over the past few months. Among the normal influx of messages from friends and university announcements, there have been a series of e-mails detailing recent thefts and threats to student safety. Many of these e-mails include a list of helpful safety tips, such as locking your doors and not leaving valuables in plain sight. These tips are valuable; but by now, they should be common sense.

Safety concerns are not new to the campus. Previous accounts of campus rapists have come and gone, but still reflect a reason to be safe. But the break-ins present a criminal sect of the campus society previously unthinkable to many students. The idea of an intruder being able to sneak into the dormitories and lurk in the hallways searching for an unlocked dorm room to burglarize or students to assault is undoubtedly frightening — and it is a viable threat.

“As is any large school, TCU is a microcosm of the society in which it exists,” TCU police sergeant Chris Drake said. “Given the atmosphere of trust generated by like-minded individuals with common goals, in close social contact, and with the youthful experience of the population, crimes of opportunity occur.”

In addition to the danger of these rising criminal threats, there also seems to be a fairly common lack of awareness shown throughout much of the student body. It is important to remain instinctive even within the TCU bubble, which is now being penetrated by crime. It is easy to be overcome by this false sense of security and fall victim to crimes that could have been prevented. So take the tips and heed the warnings, but even more importantly, you should learn to be aware of your surroundings and possible dangers.
“Diligent practice of personal safety techniques can make a difference in our fight against victimization,” Drake said. “The safety tips given, however, can only ‘harden the target’.”

This town is more than just a college town, and there is a rather undesirable underbelly, as most trips far enough down Berry Street and beyond would tell you. It is time to pop the so-called TCU bubble and recognize some essence of the real world that is already here. There are thieves, perpetrators and criminals among us, and the only way to truly protect yourself or your property is to be aware of risks.

I am not advising wide-scale paranoia. Most of the people you probably encounter every day are students and faculty of the university and pose no real threat outside the spread of communicable diseases. This, however, is not always the case, and making a casual assumption can be dangerous.

Just because you may leave your belongings at a vacant table before you go to the bathroom doesn’t necessarily mean that they will still be there when you get back, even if you’ve done these same actions a thousand times before without incident.

“Keeping one’s residence hall (and vehicle) doors and windows locked can go a long way toward preventing crimes of opportunity,” Drake said. “Keeping valuables, if left in your vehicle, in the trunk or out of sight can tell a thief that ‘it’s not worth the trouble to break in here.’”

And just because you think it’s safe to walk with your head in the clouds since it’s the middle of the day doesn’t mean you couldn’t be victimized.

Similarly, crashing in your room between classes and forgetting to lock the door can result in waking up to find a stranger in your room. A young woman walking alone late at night should be suspicious of shadows moving around her car or strange noises in the underbrush. This doesn’t mean jump at every sound after sunset, but just be on your guard when the situation calls for it — and know what situation you are in. These aren’t circumstances that many people are comfortable with or conditioned to, but it is important that we, as students of life, learn what situations exist around us and how to deal with them.

“Perhaps our short- and long-term goals should be to ‘crime proof’ our persons and property as suggested by the safety tips offered on the police Web site,” Drake said. “YOU are ultimately responsible for your own safety. But, it’s up to all of us to turn these statements into actions.”
 
 
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