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On-Campus Theft Saga: a Two-Way Effort

In the past year, there had been several incidents of theft within the university. And while some have been investigated, a number of cases are still unresolved. Perhaps this is why two UA&P Voice-Out posts two weeks ago, September 18, attracted much attention. Two scholars – both victims of theft – vented out their frustrations, as they narrated the unfortunate events that transpired that day. These accounts, which happened in the Administration and Library Building (ALB) and College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) libraries, were eerily similar: leaving their bags unattended, both victims returned to find that their belongings had been meddled with. Worse, money had been stolen from their wallets.

Upon further investigation, The Bosun uncovered other similar incidences that same week. According to sources from the Students Services Office (under the Center for Student Affairs), there were other isolated cases in the Don Emilio Ejercito library and in the immediate area around Dizon Auditorium. Taken altogether, four victims among those cases have already filed reports. In an interview, Student Affairs Officer Ms. Marie Puyat observes that thefts seem to happen in places without CCTV cameras and were instigated through deliberate planning. Her colleague, Discipline Officer Ms. Corrie Medina reminds students to “Be vigilant and make sure [they] assume the responsibility of taking care of [their] belongings.” However, pertinent departments have also proposed measures needed to ensure the safety and security of the university. If necessary, the Assets and Facilities Management Group (AFMG) can intervene in such issues.

In light of the recurring thefts, The AFMG has decided that more CCTV cameras need to be installed around key locations in the campus. In addition to the university’s existing forty-one units, AFMG’s Managing Director, Engr. Paul Lazarte, says that they plan on buying an additional ninety-four to be installed around campus. At the time of the interview, an exact date for installation has yet to be given, but he estimates to acquire all the units sometime this October or next November. As the AFMG tries to heighten security measures, their opinions on the issue ring similar tones.

When asked about their thoughts, Engr. Lazarte also advises students not to leave valuables unattended. Working alongside him, Campus Maintenance and Planning Manager Raymund Go is familiar with the university’s CCTV operations. “When students leave their valuables unattended, sometimes it takes them two hours to return to their stuff,” Go says. “It’s not really a lack of CCTVs,” he adds. “For thefts to occur, there has to be a need and an opportunity.”

In the following week the mischief showed no sign of stopping, as three new incidents surfaced on UA&P Voice Out – all happening in the same, uncanny manner. A male victim from one of those incidents allowed himself to be interviewed, but requested to be anonymous. This time, the incident was suspected to have happened when he left his bag along CAS ledge. While he acknowledges that he will be more vigilant the next time around, he resents the perceived lack of action by the authorities. “They’re so passive and not active in doing their job, and students are left to solve it themselves,” he says. He then mentions that three of his blockmates have also been rendered victims. When told about the proposed CCTV cameras, he was cynical. “It’s not about CCTV cameras; that’s not the point. You have to serve justice, so [the problem] can be addressed.”

The two other incidents posted on UA&P Voice Out last week happened in the most private of places, beyond the reach of any CCTV camera: one in the Parking and Sports Building (PSB) women’s shower and the other in the ALB women’s restroom. There is no denying the persistence, intention, frequency, and gravity of the thievery. In the end, this on-campus theft saga shows that dealing with this issue, at the very least, requires action on the parts of both students and those in charge. As multiple cases continue to happen more frequently, and as the thief (or thieves) still lingers around campus undetected, students should be wise to heed the advice given by our university authorities: that they take extra care of their belongings, even in places that rather seem safe. Likewise, the AFMG also understands that additional CCTVs would not be enough to curtail the theft problem.