Crime Watch

Violent behavior among Santa Monica College students has escalated - especially regarding parking.

During the first week of the spring semester, Detective Mike Champagne, a veteran officer at SMC for 15 years, was informed of an incident involving two students in competition for the same parking space.

A male student allegedly stole a space out from under a female student who was waiting for the same spot to become vacant.

"The guy parked in the girl's spot," said Champagne, trying not to chuckle, "and she came after him and slapped him silly. They're going to see the dean to settle it in-house."

Though the image of this particular event might have a humorous ring to it, the implications of this situation, and others like it, are not so funny. Angry transactions may lead to more serious physical violence and vandalism.

Petty theft is also on the rise on the SMC campus, and anyone who openly displays something of value is a target.

Most thefts occur in the Library, though any area is subject to the whims of a criminal opportunist.

Champagne said that items are most likely to be stolen when students leave their belongings unattended, for instance, while going to the restroom, or searching in the library stacks for books.

Favorite items for abduction are textbooks, which can be resold at the Campus Bookstore or at the A&R bookstore (across the street from SMC) on Pico for fast cash.

Cell phones, which students set on countertops while otherwise distracted and backpacks, which are often left unsupervised in a variety of circumstances are also favorites for thieves.

Purses, wallets, computers, cameras and other valuables are also attractive spoils for thieves.

In fact some thieves specialize in certain items.

Champagne recently caught, and incarcerated, a student who had stolen seven MP3 players from other students.

Another common place that students leave valuables in plain-sight is on the seats of their parked vehicles.

This can result in forced entry, burglary, and even stolen automobiles, according to police.

Champagne noted that there are a few cars stolen every semester.

Most are recovered within a week, but a car that was stolen last winter has yet to be found.

He said it may have been "stripped."

International students, who may not be savvy to criminal behavior present on college grounds, are given safety talks by the Campus Police.

However, there are no such programs available for the rest of the student body.

Champagne noted that over the last two years crime has increased in direct correlation with an increase in student enrollment.

Champagne advises students to be alert concerning their possessions.

This includes hiding anything of value, and recording any identification or serial numbers on expensive items for safe keeping.

This will insure that, if bad luck does strike, students will have a means for identifying their stolen objects, and are more likely to get them back if the thief is caught.

In the event that a theft should occur, students should bring their recorded information with them to the SMC police department located on Pearl Street to include in the theft report. For more information contact the SMC police department at (310) 434- 4300.