Caution, ‘Common Sense’ Urged to Avoid Theft

By Cassandra Gilbert
Staff Writer

Senior Wasfieh Hammad discovered that her laptop was missing from her classroom on Oct. 8 at approximately 6:05p.m. following a quiz. She had left her laptop on her desk in an empty Robison Annex classroom under a textbook and notebook, with her backpack next to it, and walked out at approximately 4:35 p.m. and returned around 5:30 p.m.  Her first classmate entered the room roughly 15 minutes later. She believes that in the 15 minutes the classroom was empty, someone had come in and stolen the laptop.

The Equinox assessed police reports from Teaneck and Hackensack and compared them to Public Safety reports. Research shows that there have been 11 reported thefts on FDU Metropolitan campus this semester as of Nov. 29.

The Clery Act requires that all colleges and universities that have federal student financial aid programs publish an annual report listing three years of crime statistics. However, this federal law doesn’t require schools to publish information on thefts, unless it’s a hate crime, according to University Director of Public Safety Dave Miles. Therefore, the specific numbers on thefts on campus are hard to find, but Miles believes 11 is about the average number of thefts this campus sees per semester.

Assistant Director of the School of Criminal Justice and retired Chief of Police Patrick J. Reynolds said he doesn’t know if 11 is a lot, but that he is “certainly not concerned about safety on this campus.”

“We’re pretty fortunate,” said Miles, who started with the university in 1980. He believes there is “relatively low crime on the campus.”

Both Miles and Reynolds say that these incidents can be limited if people are more careful with their possessions.

“We have to be smart about our placement,” Reynolds said. Reynolds believes there needs to be “a little more vigilance on behalf of the owner.”

“A lot of [thefts] that happen are students that leave items unattended,” Miles said. “Overall it is a safe campus, but again people have to use common sense.”

When asked about how she felt about this take on her situation, Hammad didn’t agree.

“I feel like that’s not true. I thought that it would be safe, especially because it was in front of the two main offices,” Hammad said.

According to Miles there are about 300 cameras throughout campus and that they continue to add more, but he feels that students don’t understand that it’s not enough to have cameras. He says that, even if he could properly see what he needs to see, there is no way of identifying a person.

“Public Safety didn’t care enough to follow up, they just told me to get a new laptop. However, they seemed reluctant to follow up or even look at the cameras,” Hammad said. “There were only two cameras [in the building]: one in the entrance pointing towards the way of Robison and one in the back entrance.”

Miles said that the top two priorities Public Safety has to reduce these incidents is ensuring officers’ visibility on campus while orchestrating random patrols and educating students on what to do and what not to do. He added that the secondary means of protection include things like locks and cameras.

Miles and Reynolds maintain that FDU is a safe campus, but as a victim, Hammad doesn’t believe this is accurate.

“I think on a material basis it’s not because of the lack security cameras. The security cameras we do have are placed in improper places. [I] just don’t understand why we can get a new sidewalk and new trees and a new sign but we can’t get new cameras,” Hammad said.

“I like the fact that they’ve [Public Safety] hired a lot of retired law officers,” Reynolds said.

According to Miles there are 33 people in the Public Safety department with 10-12 being retired police officers.

“We as citizens have obligations,” Reynolds said. “Public Safety is excellent.” Reynolds says that he has a good feeling about the quality of service they provide and adds that they “always seem to be fully caring.”

Hammad didn’t feel this caring side, however.

“I feel like they didn’t handle it at all. I submitted a report and called to follow up to see if they could check the camera and then the officer I had spoken to said ‘well a lot of people go into Robinson Annex between that time,’” said Hammad. “They also said there’s no cameras in that hallway and nothing distinguishable about my laptop so there ‘wasn’t much to go on’ even though I provided an exact time frame, and location.”

Conversely, she felt that the Teaneck Police Department handled the situation very reasonably.

“I feel like they handled it professionally as they would any theft. They registered it on the National Database and a detective followed up after,” Hammad said.

In addition to more cameras in important hallways, she wants “Public Safety to sympathize with the victim rather than blame them.”

Hammad said she had to buy a new laptop because she had a paper the next day and that since the incident she brings her stuff with her all the time.

“I think for the size of the campus it’s [number of thefts] a pretty small number. I expected a higher number,” Hammad said, even though she hadn’t heard of any incidents of thefts on campus prior to her experience.

“Any theft is one too many,” said Miles. “It only takes a few seconds.”

Miles urges students to report thefts to public safety first so they can conduct investigations that the police might not be able to.

Miles says that there are no commonalities between the 11 thefts, so there is no way of knowing if there is any connection.