Compiled by Driftwood Staff – Veronika Lee with Erron Thomas and Lexi Ancar
An email sent university wide at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 12, announced that more vehicles had been vandalized in the UNO Engineering parking lot. Although the email from the UNO Police Department states that there were two suspects that fled via vehicle and that campus security is cooperating with local police, no description of the car or suspects was provided. This comes approximately a week after 30 or more vehicles had their windows smashed.
Milton Martin, a student, looked on as university police circled the scene. “I think we need more patrolling,” he said.
Students and staff watched as UNO PD put up a metal barricade by the parking lot while simultaneously directing people away. As the number of vehicle break-ins and vandalizations continue to rise, many students are wondering why the University is not allocating more of their budget to provide full-time patrol of campus lots. If half of the university’s student population has vehicles parked on campus with $114 per parking pass per semester, UNO would collect at least $456,000 in parking fees, not to mention the revenue the university collects from ticketing students in parking violations.
When asked why students have not received information about the suspects, UNO’s Chief Communications Officer and Strategic Adviser to the President, Adam Norris explains that profiling suspects would do nothing to help the ongoing investigations and only cast a shadow of paranoia and suspicion on our campus.
“Only under specific circumstances does the University disclose suspect and vehicle information. First of all, our police firmly believe that these suspects are not members of the University community so it’s extremely unlikely that they would be in our midst on a daily basis. More importantly, it does not improve public safety or advance the investigation to provide information such as: the suspects were one medium build teenage white male and one tall slender teenage black male (I’m speaking hypothetically). Unless there is some specific characteristic about the suspect that would make him/her easily identified, it would just cast suspicion on any person who fits those general descriptions. Not only is that not helpful—it’s potentially harmful to members of our campus community. The same goes for the vehicle. Is everyone that drives a white Accord now a suspect? Of course not,” he explains.
A close look at university records shows this may be a recurring pattern.
According to University Crime Reports, made available to the public , “On January 13, 2020, at 4 p.m., a UNO police officer witnessed a suspect attempting to open vehicles parked on campus by pulling on door handles. The officer confronted the suspect in the parking lot of Pontchartrain Hall and the suspect fled. Officers pursued the suspect and apprehended him in the vicinity of Ben Franklin High School. Please remember to lock your vehicles and do not leave valuable items in plain view.”
The Daily Crime Logs have been updated since last week’s crime spree however, Driftwood previously neglected to include that Jan. 29 saw an 11:30 a.m. auto burglary also in the engineering parking lot. (It is listed on the monthly report and can be viewed here https://www.uno.edu/media/19811 ) The UNO Daily Crime Logs from last semester reveal one auto burglary in October in the Human Performance Center parking lot, two auto burglaries at Privateer Place in November, and one “auto theft” from HPC parking and another at the Lafitte Village parking lot.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security (CSS) report for UNO, has not been updated since 2018 and can be viewed here . According to the U.S. Department of Education’s site, “This data collection is required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and the Higher Education Opportunity Act.” It should be noted that other universities in the area have yet to be updated and this may be due to it being early in the year.
According to Adam Norris, “The UNOPD engages in both overt (marked police vehicles) and covert (unmarked vehicles) patrols of campus, and they have to patrol the entire campus, not just parts of it. They do patrols 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have added to our patrols and the Levee District Police has increased their patrols in the areas around campus. We have begun restricting entry/exit points on campus, which will allow our officers to better monitor traffic on and off campus. We believe this will make a major difference. More details on those changes are coming soon.”
As the vandalization and theft on our campus continues, one might wonder if UNO Campus Security will tap into federal funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). This grant program allows postsecondary institutions such as UNO to strengthen their security efforts.
Adam Norris states: “Our police department is aware of the DOJ CPD program and investigating if it’s a good fit for our needs. As you can see, they have specific types of projects that they fund. The University continue to seek both local, state and federal support for our campus security.”
Driftwood will continue to provide updates if and when they become available.