UPD steps up security on grounds after multiple robberies – The Cavalier Daily
After a series of robberies around freshman dorms, the university police department conducts additional patrols around all housing areas on the grounds. The decision comes after several bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters were stolen from racks outside dormitories in recent weeks.
University Police Department Sergeant Ben Rexrode explained that small cutting tools have led to an increase in thefts of locked bikes.
“We envision at least one [theft] one day, sometimes two,” Rexrode said.
Although bike theft has become more common this year, this problem has persisted for at least a year before the UPD made the decision to increase security on the grounds.
College sophomore Ava Hollis had her unlocked bicycle stolen last year in the freshman dorm area. She reported the incident to the police department and posted flyers, but he was never found. Hollis said police tried to be helpful but didn’t have enough resources to find her bike.
“[Police] were able to find video footage, but it was too grainy to identify the person,” Hollis said. “They tried…but what good is a video that can’t actually identify people?”
Rexrode said the enhanced security presence will be a short-term solution aimed at preventing these crimes. Additionally, the officers will be security guards, as opposed to armed police.
“We’re trying to put a little more visibility there to deter them in the short term until hopefully our investigations can lead to arrests,” Rexrode said. “We devote a lot of our resources to it.
Hollis wondered if this increased visibility would help prevent further thefts.
“I think a lot of times people are just in a rush and trying to grab something quickly to leave,” Hollis said. “So maybe that will help – I’m not really sure.”
This increased police presence comes almost a year after the beginning of the UPD’s Community-Oriented Police Squad program. After a ascend In crimes reported last year, a group of four police officers were assigned to high-traffic areas above ground, such as the corner, and areas around 14th, 15th and Wertland Streets. The UPD joins patrols in this area with the Charlottesville Police Department. One of the goals of the program was to improve community relations by talking with students and business owners about what they could improve.
The increased police presence was met with opposition from students. A cohort of law school students published a letter October 6 opposing the creation of COPS by the University Police Department. The students disagreed with the idea that public safety issues should be solved by an increased police presence.
The UPD set up the ambassador program in 2015. Although Ambassadors are not police officers, they patrol areas adjacent to the grounds and can assist students and alert relevant law enforcement to potential incidents – they do not hold powers of arrest .
Data comparing the six months prior to COPS implementation to the first six months of its implementation shows a decrease in reported serious assaults, simple assaults and gunshots. Yet there has also been an increase in drunk driving and robbery – and other crimes, such as burglaries, have not changed.
Rexrode said part of this increase can be attributed to the fact that these crimes would otherwise have gone unreported.
“More eyes and ears mean more things are seen and reported,” Rexrode said. “Overall, they’ve had a pretty good impact and are well known. I know all the merchants in Corner really appreciate their presence.
Hollis felt that the ambassadors and above ground police were not doing enough. She feels that the UPD is not proactive enough in its policing and seems rather reactive.
“I don’t really think the police are doing enough when homeless people are heckling students right outside the police station,” Hollis said. “It seems like [the ambassadors] only face a problem when it is too late.