Campus security coverage questioned after series of hit-and-runs

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This story was originally written for The Northern Light.

 

With the lack of security cameras around UAA’s campus, many hit-and-runs, vandalizations and burglaries have gone un-surveillanced and undocumented. The lack of security gives the opportunity for theft and destruction of property, leaving students with no alternative but to accept the fate of a fender-bender or other damage.

Johanna Richter, an economics major at UAA, was studying late on campus when her car was hit. When Richter was leaving the library, she came out to find her car with noticeable destruction to her bumper, approximately $1,500 worth of damage.

There was a note left on the car with contact information, but when Richter called, it was revealed to her that she had been given a fake number. Richter then contacted University Police Department to see if they could help, but to no avail.

“They [UPD] said there was nothing they could really do about it because there’s no security camera footage to go off of,” Richter said. “Basically, they just said I needed to file a report with the DMV that an accident happened for my insurance.”

Richter believes that the lack of security on campus leaves students susceptible to burglaries and hit-and-runs, something that could easily be prevented by the installation of security cameras.

“This seems like it is a pretty big problem. There’s either hit-and-runs or in parking lots or burglaries, and also, what if you get assaulted? What are they going to do about that? To me, it seems like a security camera is a pretty low-cost way to have more crime solving at UAA, and as a preventative measure,” Richter said.

Richter isn’t the only student that has been faced with damage to their vehicle and had no way to hold anyone accountable for it. Emily Haas, a civil engineering major at UAA, faced approximately $8,000 worth of damage to her vehicle when an ex-boyfriend slashed her tires and keyed her car in the East Garage on campus on Nov. 15.

“My car is totaled. He actually carved through the metal, he didn’t just key my car. He stabbed through the roof and stabbed through the doors. It was more damage than my car was worth,” Haas said. “They [UPD] told me they didn’t have anything showing that he was doing it, or that he was actually there. All they had was him leaving the classroom and leaving through an emergency door. I asked to see it, and they said no.”

UPD Lieutenant Michael Beckner responded to concerns, noting that like the rest of the university, UPD has budget restraints that restricts them from adding more security cameras around campus.

“In 10 years, we’ve come a long way — leaps and bounds with camera systems on campus, and we hope to continue to do that. Right now, with the budget situation the way it is with the university, you know, they’re trying to keep tuition down and to go buy a bunch of cameras…” Beckner said. “We try to put them in places that would give us the most coverage — the most bang for the buck.”

For a 720p high-definition security camera through FLIR, a top of the line imaging company, each camera costs approximately $168. Security cameras for businesses or schools can cost less with a bulk order, and often companies can gain a tax write-off for their business done with a university.

Beckner also noted that the cameras are expensive to maintain, and further budget cuts could prevent further coverage.

“I think it’s great that the students are asking, and wanting more, because we’re wanting more too. We would like to get them in all the parking lots because, like anything else it does help us identify some things, or if there’s an incident or dispute, we can see what happened, one way or the other.”

Nick Tabaczka, double major in mathematics and political science, believes that UAA has been spending their money in places that are not in the best interest of students.

“Although I do like to stay warm, at the end of the day, we don’t need more sky bridges…it’s cosmetic. We’re cutting things that aren’t cosmetic right now that matters to students, and that bothers me.”

When asked about the safety of campus overall, students still have many concerns.

“I don’t feel very safe at all. I went and got a protective order the very same day, but unfortunately, my protective order doesn’t cover me on campus. Since he’s in two of my classes, he was allowed to be there until UAA got something done about it, and that took about two weeks, so I didn’t go to class,” Haas said.

Tabaczka has been in three different fender benders on campus, two of which were his fault. In both situations, Tabaczka left a note with a phone number on the individual’s vehicle.

“The first time, I had just gotten a new truck. It was over by Eugene Short, and it was an older truck that I hit. It was just a little dent on the chrome, but I left a note and the guy called me back. He spent more time complimenting me on the phone than anything else,” Tabaczka said. “You get the piece of mind in knowing you did the right thing.”

UPD recommends filing a report the moment an incident happens on campus but highly recommends being in the practice of leaving a note in case one causes an accident.

“It’s always good to leave a note with your contact information because that’s required by law. If you do damage somebody’s car in an auto accident and leave, and don’t leave your contact information, and we do have it on camera and find out who you are, it is a crime, and we will charge that person for that crime,” Beckner said.

Students are also advised to report any and all incidents, including vehicle-related, to University Police as soon as they can post-damage. Filing a report may not prevent the damage, but can allow for UPD to began an investigation, starting with any security cameras present in the area.

The Author

Samantha is majoring in journalism and political science at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the executive editor of The Northern Light, UAA's student-run newspaper and has previously interned at Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Public Media. Samantha loves pad thai, london fogs and a good baseball tee.

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