Police monitor campus as students clear out over break


Officer Robert Hubbard of the University of Illinois Police Department drives along Green Street during his shift on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Hubbard said the department does notice an increase in burglaries during times like Spring Break when many students are gone from campus. Even buildings that seem secure can be compromised, making it in students’ best interest to take valuables with them during breaks.

By Jennifer Wheeler

While students are wishing their friends a safe spring break, they may be hoping the same applies to their property on campus.

“(The campus is) not deserted but fewer people are around to report crimes,” said Lt. Skip Frost, patrol division commander for the University Police Department. “Some people view that as an opportunity.”

Crime decreases during spring break because fewer people are on campus, Frost said. However, officers are more alert to certain crimes, such as residential burglary, while students are out of town.

“We keep a close watch out for people who do not belong on campus,” Frost said. “We do our best to identify people and tell them that they have no business being there.”

He said it may be easier for people to commit crimes because fewer students are on campus to witness them.

Frost said officers regularly check University residence halls during spring break.

“We make it very clear to the officers to pay special attention to the residential areas and University Housing,” Frost said. “They make sure that everything is locked up and that we don’t have any unauthorized access into those areas.”

Illinois Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls offer housing for residents who stay on campus during spring break, said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing.

Nobody is allowed admittance into closed residence halls during spring break. University identification cards that typically allow residents entrance into their halls will not be working.

To have access to these closed dorms, a person must possess a building key, Ruby said.

Students found within closed residential halls without permission are trespassing, Ruby said.

She added that open University halls will have a staff member on call, a person working the front desk and a resident director during break.

To prevent crime from occurring in the dorms, Frost said the University Police Department reminds students to lock windows and doors and to take home expensive valuables during break.

Another safety issue students may come across is the reduced number of buses running throughout campus.

According to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Web site, service on eight bus routes, including the 21 Quad, 22 Northbound and 22 Southbound, will be reduced. SafeRides will also not operate from March 21 to March 28.

Robert Patton, director of operations for Mass Transit Direct, said bus services are cut down during spring break because the cost of maintaining service is not worth it when ridership decreases as much as it does.

He added that he could not adequately comment on whether the limited number of bus routes affects the level of crime on campus.

However, Patton said using the buses can be a safer alternative to walking or driving.

“When the intensity (the number of buses) is increased, the options become easier to reduce exposure to safety issues,” he said.

If students are concerned over the limited number of services provided by the Mass Transit District, Frost said the number of officers patrolling the campus does not change.

“We should read ‘7-11’ because we’re open all night,” Frost said.