Students concerned about assault, theft

By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 14, 2005

Students this year have voiced concerns about pedestrian traffic, sexual assault and bike thefts.

At least three pedestrians have been hit by vehicles in the campus area since January. The Arizona Daily Wildcat has received several letters from students highlighting the frustration that comes when bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians all fight to get around on campus.

There was an attempted sexual assault on a student in September, and before that a student reported to police that someone had tried to break into her campus-area apartment. Many women have taken advantage of the OASIS Program's self-defense classes in hopes of being better prepared to fight off an attack.

There were 1,168 thefts reported on campus last year, including 417 bike thefts. Bike thieves are hard to catch, and many of the bikes are sold for drug money, according to police.

The University of Arizona Police Department is trying to address these student concerns by passing out whistles, selling bike locks at a reduced rate and educating students on safety tips.

Even though family weekend is one of the quietest weekends on campus in terms of reported crimes, students should still practice safety tips, said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman.

The transportation war

At least two students have hit a pedestrian this year while the pedestrian was in a crosswalk, and UAPD has had three reported incidents of pedestrians being hit by vehicles since January.

Mejia said there have likely been more incidents in the area surrounding campus that were handled by Tucson Police Department.

With many parents coming to town this weekend there is likely to be even more traffic than usual in the campus area, said UAPD Cpl. Chris Scheopner.

"It comes down to the community adopting safer methods of walking, biking and driving on campus," Scheopner said. "Too often students are in a hurry and don't obey the traffic laws. Practice patience."

There are a number of factors that make campus a problematic area for pedestrians, said Mejia.

"There is a lot of foot traffic on campus and a lot of young drivers," Mejia said.

The UA has taken steps to increase pedestrian safety, including installing barrier walls on the medians to East Speedway Boulevard to discourage jaywalking, creating tunnels under Speedway Boulevard and creating pedestrian pathways with traffic signals across East Sixth Street, Mejia said.

Even with these measures the most effective way to avoid collisions is to use common sense, Mejia said.

"Even with pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers all trying to get around campus the only way a collision can occur is if someone violates traffic law," Mejia said.

Drivers must always yield to pedestrians, but pedestrians can avoid collisions by always looking both ways before crossing the street to make sure that vehicles are going to yield, he said.

Lock doors to prevent sexual assault

In September, a man attempted to sexually assault a student at her home in the campus area.

The student was sleeping when she woke up around 3 a.m. to find the man in her room.

The man got into the house through an unlocked door and attempted to assault the student before being frightened away.

Two weeks earlier, a UA student told police she was in her apartment around 3 a.m. when she heard someone trying to get in. The student said she didn't call police because she didn't see anyone.

UAPD handled three sexual assault cases in 2004. Since January, there have been four sexual assaults reported to UAPD, Mejia said.

The Whistle Stop Program, a joint effort by UAPD and TPD to inform students on ways to prevent crime, has concentrated on preventing sexual assault.

Scheopner said police have always focused on preventing sexual assault, but said the Whistle Stop Program has given police an opportunity to connect with the community and get the word out.

"We're realistic, we know that handing out whistles won't stop sexual assault," he said. "But we're hoping the whistles serve as a reminder to students to be alert and follow safety tips."

Tips include locking door and windows, leaving lights on to avoid the appearance of an empty home, not opening the door to strangers and calling 911 if anything seems suspicious.

Students should also walk in groups, avoid alcohol and use SafeRide, Mejia said.

OASIS offers resources and counseling to anyone affected by sexual assault or relationship violence. It also offers self-defense classes.

Theft most prominent crime on campus

"Property theft is the leading crime on campus," said Scheopner. "On one hand, it's sad to think there's that many thieves, but it's positive to know that the leading crime isn't a more violent or dangerous crime."

There were 45 bike thefts this August and September. There were 86 bike thefts in August and September 2004.

Mejia said it looks like there will be significantly fewer reported bike thefts this year than last year, which had more than 400 bikes reported missing.

Mejia said he thinks this is partially because of an increase of awareness among students. He said more students seem to be using U-Locks.

UAPD sells bike locks for $13 and steering wheel locks for $10.

They have also held several bike registration drives throughout the year. These drives encourage students to register their bikes with Parking and Transportation Services and also provide information on the best ways to lock up a bike.

Although registering your bike doesn't guarantee it won't get stolen, it does get students in the mindset of preventing theft, Scheopner said.

It also makes it more likely that a stolen bike gets returned to the owner.

If a bike is sold to a pawnshop and has a registration sticker on it, the pawnshop must check to make sure that the bike hasn't been reported stolen.

Students can prevent theft by taking away the opportunity for thieves to steal, Mejia said.

This is done by taking every precaution possible to prevent theft and by being alert.