In its 45 years of service, the University of Miami Police Department (UMPD) has reached its lowest amount of annual crimes at 179, compared to 454 in 2003. In the 2014-15 academic year so far, there has been an average of 25 crimes per month, the majority of which are theft crimes.
According to Crime Prevention Officer John Gulla, the decrease is due to security measures and outreach to the campus community. UMPD utilizes more than 1,000 cameras to monitor areas with heavy traffic and campus events.
Additionally, using Cane Cards to access the residential colleges and students’ individual dorms has also increased safety on campus.
“Before, students used to leave their doors unlocked; but now that it’s automatically locked, we’ve seen the number of crimes in the dorms decrease,” Gulla said.
In 2013, there was a total of 71 crimes, most of which were reported in the University Village (UV), according to UMPD. In comparison, there were only 40 crimes reported in 2014, and the majority came from Stanford Residential College (SRC).
For the fall, there will be two additional police officers to have “more of a police to student ratio,” Gulla said. The extra security comes at a beneficial time because crimes tend to increase around late August, when an influx of new students arrive on campus.
“We’re trying to affect the culture so students don’t leave their things around,” Gulla said. “Things that are highly desirable are even smaller … so people leave them around more.”
UMPD added that 50-80 percent of all campus crimes involve the theft of unattended and unsecured property, which they say can be prevented. Security officers on campus help students be more aware of their belongings by leaving notes on cars if there are valuables that could be eye-catching for a thief.
Students like junior Brianna Hathaway learned this lesson after frequently locking her keys in her car.
“I am a UMPD regular. I frequently lock my keys in my car, and they usually take about five minutes to get to me,” Hathaway said. “They’re really nice and helpful all the time, but the officer also advised me to put away my purse so that he could see in the back seat.”
In addition to preventing theft, UMPD is also preventing pedestrian accidents. These tend to happen when people ignore their surroundings because they are texting or listening to music.
“We’re not trying to spread fear that someone is going to attack you, just the culture of awareness about paying attention when crossing the street or on the sidewalk,” Gulla said.
Aside from spreading awareness about pedestrian safety, UMPD has recognized a need to slow down drivers and has implemented a traffic sign that tells incoming cars their speed.
UMPD also provides free locks for bicycle owners and recommends students register their bikes so they can be easily identified in case of a robbery. Gulla estimated that about 1,100 bikes are registered every year.
In 2014, there were 25 reported stolen bicycles, which is the second-lowest record UMPD has reached – 10 thefts were reported in 2006. In comparison, 51 bicycle-related crimes were reported in 2011.
Gulla says the implemented measures helped decrease bicycle thefts because of the Green U campaign, which encouraged students to ride bikes instead of cars.
Despite there being a decrease in crime rates across campus, students who have used UMPD still have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of the department.
Sophomore Leah Colucci says an officer helped her find who stole her laundry in her freshman year as a resident in SRC.
“UMPD was really nice about it … he watched the surveillance camera video and saw it was a guy who accidentally took my laundry thinking it was his girlfriend’s,” Colucci said. “It was so embarrassing, but we became friends after and the officer always says hi to me now.”
Junior Tomas Cacicedo noticed how quickly the department responds to calls after a student in his class fainted earlier this semester.
“The first officer was there within four minutes, the other paramedics were there within another four minutes, which is pretty awesome for a Friday afternoon,” he said.
Still, students like senior David Levin have not had positive experiences with UMPD. When he came back to campus after winter break in 2013, he found the driver’s side window of his car smashed.
According to a story published in The Miami Hurricane, Levin said he had multiple problems with UMPD and the Office of Parking and Transportation after his car was broken into. He said that the police department did a “very sloppy job” with the investigation.
According to Levin, UMPD claimed that their security cameras wouldn’t be able to show who broke into his car. When Levin asked to look at the tapes, he says they told him to get a warrant.
“I drove over to the courthouse and I tried getting a warrant for the videos,” Levin said. “I was told something around the lines of ‘you really need a lawsuit to get a warrant.’”