This Week in Crime Watch

When the usual Santa Monica sunny weather fades away to let melancholic

heavy showers prevail, criminals seem to suddenly hibernate.

According to Officer Mike Champagne, crimes are particularly higher than normal at the beginning of each semester. But if 10 days ago tensions and violence were escalating between hungry drivers attempting to park their vehicles, backpacks and book thefts, along with aggressive students trying to add crowded classes, in the last few days crimes have quieted down. Nevertheless, three vending machines were burglarized on campus last Wednesday night.

The incident occurred between three and four o'clock in the morning when the night custodians left the campus. A man, who is possibly an outsider, entered the Station C building and stole a few hundred dollars from the three coin operated machines while being taped by a surveillance camera posted near the machines. When the thief noticed the presence of the camera he diverted it, by changing its direction with a broom. The SMC police department is currently working to identify the individual.

Even though burglary is still a problem on campus, "SMC is one of the safest community colleges in the nation," said Bruce Smith the SMC public information officer who recalls staying on campus during the 1992 Los Angeles riots because "It was safer to stay on campus than to venture out to go home."

"We are fortunate here at SMC, there are no fences and things can happen from potential harmful outsiders, but we are still pretty safe," said Champagne.

Today, with approximately 30,000 students enrolled at SMC, parking related hit-and-runs and petty theft incidents are the most frequent crimes on campus. According to the SMC police department website, 34 crimes were reported for the year 2003 versus 92 occurring at West Los Angeles College.

Champagne reported that last semester three female students at West Los Angeles Community College were all victims of attempted rape by the same man. This man is still at large.

"In 15 years this has never happened on our campus," said Champagne.

But even though SMC is safer than other colleges, vigilance and awareness are always the best way to prevent any regrettable incident from occurring.

Champagne recommends never leaving any belongings unattended as well as marking books with the owner's name in order to make the thief's illegitimate sale more difficult.

It is also highly advised to know and conserve serial numbers of items such as laptops or bicycles, so that the object can be identified, put into police databases and traced in a more effective manner.