Fewer thefts seen on campuses this semester

The number of thefts reported to the University Police Department fell by nearly 20 percent this semester, a decline the unit’s leader attributes to increased efforts to curtail the incidents on GW’s residential campuses as well as vigilant community members who are reporting suspicious activity.

Thefts on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses dropped to 117 reported cases this year from 143 cases through Sept. 1 to Nov. 20 last year.

“We have put a much greater emphasis on our community serving as ‘eyes and ears’ for the police department,” UPD Chief Kevin Hay said. “This includes GW staff such as 4-RIDE drivers, who have called in some significant cases this year.”

Hay added that the department’s anti-theft efforts might have also contributed to the numbers.

“We were conducting anti-theft efforts last year and will continue to do so this year, whenever we discern a pattern that justifies surveillance,” he said.

Hay said in October that UPD has increased its uniform presence on campus, upping the number of patrolling officers to deter criminals.

UPD also runs plainclothes operations to discreetly target thefts in specific locations, a tactic he said the force applied in September to cut down the number of bike thefts.

Laptops and smartphones continue to be the most commonly stolen items on campus, Hay said.

“Electronics and other easily concealed valuables remain popular with thieves,” he said.

The University has seen a total of 416 reported instances of theft so far in 2011, Hay said, lower than 2010’s total of 449 cases for both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses. That number was a spike from the 370 cases for both campuses in 2009.

The 416 total thefts this year marks a return to the number of incidents GW saw in 2008 at 421.

Hay said the increase from 2009 to 2010 could potentially be attributed to the Department of Education’s crime classification rules that tightened the requirements for a case to be labeled a burglary with evidence of forceful or unlawful entry. After the rule change, many of the cases were instead categorized as thefts.

UPD averages 50 to 60 criminal arrests every year for incidents ranging from thefts to burglaries and unlawful entries.

In December, officers caught three suspects involved in a theft ring who were allegedly stealing laptops at Gelman Library, and nabbed two alleged bike thieves in March and May during different plainclothes operations.

This article was updated on Dec. 1, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported theft totals for the Foggy Bottom Campus as University-wide totals for 2010, 2009 and 2008. In fact, both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses saw a total of 449 cases in 2010, 370 cases in 2009 and 421 cases in 2008.

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