Picture College Library on a Sunday evening. Hundreds of students rush throughout the building, looking for books, finding friends and lugging laptops and backpacks with them. A student realizes she needs a book on a different floor of the library. She leaves her laptop and bag at her table'after all, finding a place to sit on a Sunday night is a trick. She's gone for less than 10 minutes. When she gets back, her laptop is gone.
Theft and other types of crime can happen at any time if students aren't careful. But however large and imposing UW-Madison seems, campus crime can be prevented.
'The biggest safety concern on campus is property safety,' UW-Madison senior Patricia Ryan said. Within the first two days of living in her new residence, she had two items stolen because windows were left open.
Important phone numbers262-2957
According to Sgt. Kurt Feavel of the UW-Madison Police, Ryan's case is an example of the most prevalent crime on campus, theft. It is not unusual for students to have items stolen because they left property unattended at a library or forgot to lock their doors.
'The most common crime on campus is mtheft,' Feavel said. 'Most of the crimes on campus are crimes of opportunity. People see items laying around, and it is very easy for them to take them.'
The problem of theft on campus is not limited to UW-Madison; in fact, it is the most common crime at universities across the nation. This is because universities are public places frequented by everyone from the community.
'Universities are accessible to everyone and no one looks out of place. Often students range in age from teen-agers to those in their 50s. Everyone looks like they belong,' said Capt. Dale Burke of the UW-Madison Police.
To combat theft on campus students are encouraged not to leave valuables in a public place and always to lock doors. The clich?? that theft only takes seconds is true.
'Keep your personal possessions and things valuable to you with you at all times,' Burke said. 'If your property is left unattended and can be carried away, it will be.'
Behind walking, biking seems to be the most common form of transportation for students on campus. During a school day, finding an available bike rack for locking a bike is nearly as difficult as finding a parking spot for a car. Due to the large number of bikes on campus, bicycle theft is a very common crime at UW-Madison.
So what should a student do if his or her bike is missing? According to Jim Nikora, property supervisor for the bike recovery department, if a break-in was involved, the student should call the police. If the bike was outside, the student should call the bicycle recovery department at 267-8611.
Again, bicycle theft is a crime of opportunity. A person can ride away with an unlocked bike just as easily as taking valuables off of an unoccupied table. The obvious answer to bike theft is for students to buy locks for their bikes and always use the locks even if they are going to be back in minutes.
Nikora suggests that students use a U-lock.
'The U-lock is the most effective and keeps all but professionals away,' Nikora said.
Nikora also suggested that students keep their bikes in well-lit, visible areas but not in areas that are convenient for burglars in vans to take bikes. However, the most important advice that Nikora gives is that students should register their bikes.
'Bike registration is the absolute most cost effective protection for bikes. We return greater than 70 percent of registered bikes that we acquire. Only 10 percent of non-registered bikes are returned,' Nikora said.
One of the most dangerous aspects of any campus or large city is traveling at night. To prevent students from having to travel alone at night, the university has created the Safe Arrival For Everyone program.
'Students are aware of but don't always take advantage of the SAFE programs, especially SAFEwalk. They don't feel that they are vulnerable,' Jane Goemans, the SAFE coordinator said.
Goemans also said that students often associate the SAFE employees with the police and are worried to ask for help. She said the SAFE employees only carry radios to report dangerous situations or students that may need help, not to report crime.
'Students should make sure they have someone to walk with. They should try and find a friend to go back with from parties,' said Eric Velleux, a UW-Madison senior who was once threatened on State Street.
Along with using the SAFE program or walking with friends, students should also plan ahead when traveling at night and be able to recognize dangerous situations.
'Be aware of your surroundings, know what is happening by getting involved in the community and meeting your neighbors,' Feavel said.
Once students are familiar with the campus area, they should plan their routes before going out.
'Students should plan ahead and think about how they're going to get home before going out. If students have night classes, they can establish a weekly schedule with SAFEwalk,' Goemans said.
Students can establish a schedule with SAFEwalk by calling 262-5000. They can then set up a meeting time and place and don't have to call after every class and wait for SAFEwalkers to arrive.
Date rape is a crime that rarely appears in statistics but is perhaps the most frightening issue in dealing with campus safety.
'Date rape is higher than ever heard about,' Burke said. 'We are working to educate people about date rapes and how to prevent them. It is a very traumatic experience for victims and we would like to eliminate the problem.'
Because it is such a shocking experience, date rape is rarely reported to the police. The police feel that this is an issue where low statistics don't necessarily mean the problem is solved. The best way to eliminate date rape is through proper communication.
'Women should be very assertive and clear with their intentions. Men need to listen,' Burke said.
In addition to proper communication, Burke tells women to establish a buddy system when going out and to make sure they have friends who will look out for them. He also advises women not to go home with someone they have just met and to drink responsibly so they don't lose control of their actions.
With a little diligence and common sense, UW-Madison doesn't have to be a dangerous place. A variety of resources are available to students if they are the victims of campus crime.