By Derek Woellner —

Stolen electronics, bike theft and phone scams; this is the worry of a college student.  Although not a common occurrence, theft on campus is a very real and very serious danger.  A thief may strike at any time, but luckily there are actions you can take to help protect yourself.

“Sometimes college campuses are targeted by thieves because they are an easy target,” explains Sgt. Jason Spetz of the University of Wisconsin–Stout Police Department. “For example, some thieves have been known to go door to door, checking for unlocked and unattended dorm rooms.”

Lingo of the Law

There are many types of theft, ranging from robbery to embezzlement. Some common types found on college campuses are burglary, scams and robbery.

Burglary is a theft that occurs when someone unlawfully enters a residence or business.  Recently the UW–Stout Police Department responded to three cases of burglary in one day.  Two of the three cases involved items being stolen from student dorm rooms.

Students are also vulnerable to another type of theft: scams.

University of Wisconsin–Madison students have recently been targeted in a phone scam in which their parents and grandparents are called. The caller claims that the student has been arrested and a payment is needed for their release. The parent or grandparent is asked to purchase a cash card and provide the number over the phone, wire the money, or provide their credit card and bank information over the phone.

Robbery occurs when something is stolen directly from a person by force or threatened force. “We have never had a robbery from a locked residence hall room on this campus,” Sgt. Spetz said.

Staying Safe

Safety for yourself and your possessions is something every student can, at least partially, take into their own hands.

“The biggest message we like to send out is quite simple, don’t leave valuables unattended for any length of time,” Sgt. Spetz said. “It takes only a couple seconds to steal a laptop or smartphone when no one is by it.”

Other tips include locking your room every time it is unattended and coordinating with your roommate to know when the room will be empty. Also, any suspicious activity should be reported. Activity such as someone opening your door and saying something like, “oops, wrong room,” may be a heads up that they’re checking for unlocked rooms. If you do see suspicious activity, call UW–Stout Police at 232-2222 (ext 1), or 911 in an emergency.

To protect against phone scams, make sure that your parents and relatives are aware of current scams and that you are a good student and shouldn’t be getting arrested anytime soon.

In the event of a robbery, the two biggest things to remember are stay calm and don’t be a hero.

The Shelby County Sheriffs Department offers these and a few more good tips in their Crime Information Bulletin. Do what the robber asks and try to remember as much information about them and their weapon as possible. Making mental notes of race, age, sex, height, weight, hair and eye color, build and clothing will all be valuable information for police. Note anything unusual about the robber, such as scars, tattoos, strange mannerisms or speech patterns.  After the robbery contact the police and provide your descriptions of the perpetrator and their weapon.

To recap: be safe students and be sure to ‘protect yo self, before you wreck yo self.’

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