October 24, 2006

Thieves target IM games

A series of thefts on the Midway during intramural (IM) sports has prompted the housing office to alert resident staff about the crime pattern, which has spanned the past several weeks.

“Apparently groups of youths have used a tactic in which one of the youths distracts the IM participants, while others in the group snatch any unattended items,” said Jim Wessel, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing, in an e-mail to resident staff that has since been forwarded to IM sports representatives.

Wessel said that the U of C Police Department (UCPD) has been alerted to the problem and “will continue to patrol the Midway area.” He noted that houses can request safety talks from Sergeant JoCathy Roberts at the UCPD.

Wessel and Roberts were not available to provide further comment.

Third-year Janelle Pisarik, who frequently participates in IM sports, was a victim of this type of theft during an IM football game in fall of 2004.

“We all put our stuff in a pile and some little kids grabbed things and ran,” Pisarik said.

In her case, however, the team’s “super fast runner,” fourth-year Jack Song, decided to chase down the culprits.

“He chased the kids from the Midway all the way to Washington Park,” she said. “He was able to tail them long enough that the cops could catch them.”

Pisarik said that the students retrieved their money, but not their IDs or wallets. Since then, she said, “I only bring my ID with me and leave it in a pocket.”

As part of enhancing security, some IM participants have delegated team members to guard items during the games.

Sheila Yarbrough, the associate dean of student services, said that theft is a reality at the University.

“Theft does occur on our campus. We are an open community and property left unattended is often taken,” Yarbrough said. “This happens in dining areas, the libraries, and in other places where students gather.”

Yarbrough added that the University has taken several steps to deal with theft, including a “gotcha” program run by the UCPD. According to Yarbrough, UCPD officers put stickers on items that are often left unattended, such as laptops.

“The point of the sticker is that if the property was left unattended long enough for a sticker to be placed on the item, the property was left long enough to be taken,” Yarbrough said.

She said that students are also warned about personal security each year during Orientation Week, emphasizing that “police reports should be filed immediately when thefts occur.”