theft

Drastic decreases in thefts are being attributed to education, technology, and an increase in student alertness.

Photo: Konhee Chang

Crimes against property are down 28 percent in 2015 compared to last year, according to the Division of Public Safety.

Six hundred and one crimes against property were reported to the Penn Police in the 2014 calendar year, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, and there have been just 431 reports in the same time period in 2015.

Thefts from buildings on campus have seen the most significant drop, coming down 41 counts in 2015. Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush credits the drop to the creation of the Operation Building Safe project, a public safety endeavor to secure the perimeter doors of on-campus buildings and monitor who can enter freely at what times.

Through the project, DPS identified visitor entrances and placed security officers, civilian concierges and virtual concierge systems run by DPS or visitor management systems at those entrances. Rush said that the process of making visitors identify themselves discourages perpetrators from committing thefts. DPS has also held security fairs and education programs.

“These efforts have made our community much more aware and alert, and they are taking care of their property more securely,” Rush said. The new contactless swipe-in entrances in buildings such as the Penn Veterinary School, Annenberg and Van Pelt have helped to further secure and streamline the entrance process.

Laptop and smartphone thefts in Van Pelt have seen a significant decrease due to the visitor management system installed at its entrance point that logs all non-Penn Card holding visitors. Rush also believes that the decrease is due to more responsible student actions.

“It’s a combination of education, technology, behaviors changing and the behaviors of perpetrators changing because they don’t have access to our buildings,” Rush said. “And that’s going to continue to drive crime down.”

Retail thefts are down over the last two years as well due to similar project enacted by DPS that identified which retail locations were hit the hardest by theft, and which times of the week and day were most common. DPS then stationed Allied Barton officers outside of those locations during peak hours to discourage theft. The hottest retail locations for theft were American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and the Walnut Street CVS locations at 34th Street and 39th Street, among others. However, as a result of increased crime mapping and analysis, 2015 has seen 28 less counts of retail theft.

Even with the implementation of extra security measure, Rush urges students to maintain mindfulness with their personal belongings. “There are people who, when opportunity knocks, decide they have the motivation to take that opportunity to steal your belongings,” Rush said. “Never have somebody you don’t know watch your personal property.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that thefts and burglaries were down 37 percent and 953 burglaries and thefts were reported to the Penn Police in the 2014 calendar year, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, and there have been just 696 reports in the same time period in 2015. In fact, 601 total crimes against property were reported in 2014 and 431 in 2015 in that time frame — a 28 percent drop in total crimes against property. The DP regrets the error.

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