Dorm incident causes scare on campus

Campus has been buzzing since a UM student was arrested last weekend after he entered two unlocked rooms in Mahoney Residential College and assaulted several students.

For the most part, however, students were startled by the incident, but are not doubting the quality of UM’s on-campus security.

“I was surprised because I was just talking to my friend that night about how safe I’d felt in the dorms … but I don’t think it’s affecting how students feel about safety,” said freshman Madelyn Tarr, who lives in Stanford Residential College.

The university has a variety of safety measures in place so that students feel safe on campus. For example, between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., the main doors at the five residential colleges automatically lock, and only residents can use their Cane Cards to swipe in. Security checkpoints inside require residents to check themselves and their guests in.

Junior Eric Fields said he is generally satisfied with campus security, but recognizes its loopholes.

“It’s not overbearing, but you always feel like they’re there,” said Fields, who lives in the University Village (UV). “I like that the doors lock at night and you need a Cane Card to get in, even though that’s sort of flawed because you could just walk in behind somebody that’s already swiped their card and not get much of a second look.”

Jim Smart, the director of Housing and Residential Life, said that one of the biggest problems regarding dorm security is “tailgating.” Smart said tailgating occurs when students who live in a dorm swipe in and let whoever is standing behind them walk in as well, without knowing them or knowing if they live there.

Chief David Rivero of UM’s Police Department (UMPD) said students need to be cautious with bringing people into the residential colleges they do not know.

“Any time a student brings a stranger to the dorms, they’re breaching our safety envelope,” he said. “That’s makes the dorms not as safe.”

Still, Rivero said that the reason the UV has “zero to little” crime is because it requires residents to swipe in no matter the time of day.

But the university is strengthening its involvement in keeping residents’ rooms secure. Starting with Eaton Residential College, students will be required to swipe their Cane Cards to enter the building 24/7. The improvements include new door locks similar to those at the UV, which lock automatically.

“This will probably save us 20 to 30 crimes a year,” he said.

Rivero said that all the residential colleges will eventually have this new system.

‘Student-on-student’ crimes

Still, the problem with this weekend’s incident was that the perpetrator was a student who actually lived in Mahoney.

Jiahao Yuan, who is a junior according to his Facebook profile page, was charged with two counts of occupied burglary and assault or battery.

Police took Yuan into custody after the burglary, which took place Sunday around 6 a.m., according to an article in The Miami Herald.

Yuan is currently an inmate at Miami-Dade County’s Training and Treatment Center and held without bond.

Rivero said that once Yuan undergoes the legal process, he could possibly spend his life in jail or be deported back to his home in China. Burglary with assault or battery is a first-degree felony; those convicted of this crime can spend up to 30 years, or life in prison.

Yuan’s case is similar to previous burglary incidents in the residential colleges. On April 11, a UMPD alert stated that an unknown black male stole a laptop from an unlocked room in Hecht Residential College. And on Oct. 23, 2010, an unknown white male stole an MP3 player from an unlocked room in Stanford Residential College, according to another alert.

Sophomore Morgan Coleman, who lives in an off-campus apartment, said she would feel unsafe if a stranger breaks in to a residential college, like in the past, rather than a student like Yuan.

According to his Facebook and LinkedIn profile pages, Yuan appears to be an average, involved UM student – he is known as Philip, is studying entrepreneurship, marketing and art.

But the fact that he seems normal could be a threat. Rivero said that on-campus crime is typically “student-on-student.”

“It’s very rare that we have someone come from the community to victimize us, especially if it involves a person’s crime like robbery, assault and sex offenses,” he said.

Rivero said that 80 percent of on-campus crime is theft of unattended property. Last year, for instance, UMPD arrested a student who was stealing unattended books and later selling them.

“If there’s a student that has his eyes set on stealing something, he’s going to find a victim easily here,” Rivero said.

Crime prevention

Although Rivero said that this kind of crime is difficult to prevent, UMPD has a variety of safety initiatives in place. They provide educational resources in their office and online, and also have security officers, cameras and a blue light emergency telephone system on campus. The blue light system provides a direct connection to the police.

Coleman said she feels safe when she sees the large amount of security patrols and cameras around campus.

In fact, Yuan was identified through footage from one of these cameras.

According to Rivero, there are 500 security cameras installed around campus, the majority of which are “better than hi-def.” Rivero said that there is such a camera atop Richter Library which can decipher the license tag of a car driving down Miller Drive.

Also UMPD is currently working with a new facial recognition software similar to the one at Pinellas County’s police department.

Rivero said that this new technology, along with education, is how UMPD and the university are tackling any crime on campus.

Crime on UM’s Coral Gables campus has declined almost 31 percent since the time Rivero became chief in 2006.

“My daughter lives on campus so I have a vested interest in knowing our residential colleges are safe and that our students are safe,” he said. “We’re continuously pushing our cops, our student guards and our student patrols to get more aggressive to try to keep campus safe.”

News editor Alysha Khan and assistant news editor Lyssa Goldberg contributed to this report. 

November 9, 2011


Alexa Lopez


ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Dorm incident causes scare on campus”

  1. ibacus says:

    Dear Editor,
    It became shockingly horrifying how a lot of students have been forced to negatively view your papers stereotyped, unofficial, biased, and immature view towards Mr. Yuan. This case is pending, and it seems very unfair to have made one of your own students out to be someone who he is not. You do not know him. To slam a student who is here from half way across the globe for something that may possibly be a huge misunderstanding is implementing a lot of over dramatized and semi-profiled thoughts into many students. It is one thing to list how our security system works and how students feel safe or unsafe about certain matters. It’s another thing to start blatantly throwing terms like “life in prison”, “30 years in jail”, and”burglary” around when this case is not solved, is complicated most likely because your dealing with a student and at that he is not a U.S. Citizen he is here for his college education which is not the same treatment as what a typical U.S. Citizen at UM would probably get charged with. If he was perhaps a U.S. Citizen he would most likely have been let off on bail with a later court date. But you did not once mention this. You failed to mention this, and rather used faulty facts from Facebook and LinkedIn-to state he is average. Get the facts straight before you send your writers and edits out hot off the press. If this was you in there, and you were in his shoes, still in jail a week later, and somehow read this how conflicted would you feel about your school and your friends? This is not a joke to post on facebook or twitter, this is a serious matter that you’ve now put down a student at your own University without knowing the outcomes and facts-just what “facebook” and “linkedin” “told you”. You never bothered to get in touch with any of his friends, to try and get in contact with law officials regarding Yuan’s actual condition. You made him out to be a bad person and you can’t prove it. The shots of him you posted online are the same shots that everyone and anyone who walks through the doors at any one of the dorms sees. They don’t provide anything about what actually happened factually and thus they’re not necessary.There was nothing actually stating what the burglary actually regarded-what was stolen? If you cant say what was stolen, then why write about it? It makes you seem less credible as a paper and staff. What if he comes out innocent and you’ve now become responsible for ruining the social stature for this poor 21-year old who is just trying to jump into American culture? And using his pictures but not being able to state the victims of alleged “sex offense” I don’t think this is fair at all. I think your staff should highly consider re-editing this article, pulling it offline and off shelves on campus and instead write an apologetic statement to the university community until you actually have factual information on the type of person Yuan truly is. Last but not least, the Asian community at this university is not huge, you didn’t do them any great service either, try to be very mindful of others-whether its the person your writing about, yourself, your staff, the university community, your readers etc you influence a lot of people and honestly this is when stating true facts becomes vital. Re-read your article and make a tally chart of how many times there is something negative towards Yuan that’s purely fact, 100% fact, then mark down tallies of how many times in the article it mentions grey area/borderline topics that are up in the air until a court session and a judge ruling closes the case. Next tally the amount of times a bias was placed towards Yuan being a “bad person”. Finally tally the amount of times there were positive facts that are 100% true about Yuan, who he is, and your efforts to get to know him before writing this article and potentially risking error on your behalf and screwing up his possible reputation if he is proven innocent. You’ve now convinced a make up of possible jurors from our campus and in our zoning area that he sexually offends women based off of a picture of him walking into a dorm but nothing beyond that. Can you prove that true? If you can’t then you have no right to write about it and have an opinion about it that publicly gets pressed and distributed to hundreds of thousands of readers everyday.

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