Cameras, cops curb campus crimes

Physical and Forensic Anthropology professor Ciaran Brewster unlocks his bike near the bike lot on Pearl Street on Monday, May 31, 2016. (Josue Martinez)

It was the second week of last fall semester, and Ethan Opdyke discovered what all cyclists who study at SMC dread: his bike had been stolen.

“I came here midday, for a 1 o’clock class. When I got done with that, an hour and five minutes later, and my bike was gone,” said Opdyke about the theft. Opdyke reported the incident to the SMCPD, knowing full well that he had little to no hope of ever seeing his bike again.

“This was how I commuted. This and the bus, but the bike was way faster,” said Opdyke about how the theft had hurt his daily commute. Which was in part why, after a warning from Sgt. Mark Kessler at the opening of the 2016 Spring Semester about a rising trend of bike thefts on campus, Opdyke made a public comment at the March 21 Associated Students board meeting about installing cameras near the bike stations on SMC’s Main Campus.

But unbeknownst to Opdyke, the measure was already underway, and over the spring several new cameras have been installed near the campus’ bike station, which is most likely why both bike thefts and crime overall are down on campus, as reported by the SMCPD.

“I think overall the crimes are down. I think the advent of having cameras on campus is a good thing, because it’s helped us to clear cases,” said Chief Johnnie Adams. “Because of the fact that the cameras are out there, it’s a visual deterrent because the suspect will see the camera and think twice before doing something.”

This reduction in crime on campus held especially true for bicycle thefts. Adams told The Corsair that between April 6 and May 26 no bike thefts had been reported to the SMCPD, and there were 3 fewer thefts for the Spring Semester, with 11, than in the Fall Semester, with 14. Unfortunately this long streak was broken on May 27 with the first bike theft in over a month, but the overall trend was positive.

After knocking on a nearby piece of wood, Sgt. Jere Romano said, “It’s been really peaceful. . . We’re way down [on crime], compared to year over year.”

Romano stated that another major factor in the reduced crime rate was very likely the increased size of the SMCPD. Two recent hires, officers Dominic Jester and Traci Dickenson, have added much needed muscle to the campus’ force.

Romano said, “There’s more of us on during the week now. With the addition of the two new officers, we’re able to cover more ground.”

Adams also said that directed patrols in areas that were analyzed to be prone to crime had helped the department prevent these thefts, saying, “Because of those patrols, hopefully we’ve done our job and reduced crime that way.”

For Opdyke, it’s nice to hear, though he was still a bit ambivalent about the situation. “It’s good that something has been done,” he said, “but it’s reactive because bikes have been stolen before. The school could have done better in those regards. But I am happy that there is a camera now.”