A burglary on the campus of Mississippi University for Women has one student campaigning for better security measures.
Senior English major David Flanery, of Aberdeen, said he returned to his dorm room in Columbus Hall several weeks ago to find his PlayStation 3 game console missing. He had been home visiting his children when his roommate called to tell him the $300 machine had disappeared.
Despite following most of the typical security recommendations, Flanery was still a victim. He said he locked his door when he left the room, as did his roommate. He copied the machine”s serial number and was able to describe it in detail. But he didn”t have the item insured and he doesn”t expect it to turn up.
“After calling the (MUW Police Department), the most I could do was file a report. But without a suspect and because nobody saw anything, that”s as far as they could take it,” said Flanery.
There”s not much Flanery can do to help his own situation, but the crime inspired him to begin circulating a petition to ask the Student Government Association and MUW administration to take steps to provide greater security on campus and prevent a crime like this from happening again.
At the top of Flanery”s list of suggestions are dead-bolt locks for all dorm rooms.
“Someone could walk up and pop a credit card in (between the door latch and door frame) and get in the room. I”ve done it before. My first year here I locked myself out of the room countless times,” said Flanery.
MUW Director of Community Living Sirena Parker said Wednesday she had not heard any stories of students being able to pick door locks with plastic cards, but said she would look into the claim. Allegra Brigham, MUW interim president, had been assured by security services the locks could not be easily picked if properly activated.
Parker said she would look further into the claim that the locks are insufficient. She said the cost of installing dead-bolt locks on the 356 campus dorm room doors would cost approximately $500,000.
Flanery is preparing the petition to present to the Student Government Association in hopes of getting the organization to officially endorse security improvements. In the meantime, Flanery has met with several administrative staff members, including Parker and MUW Police Chief Kennedy Meaders.
Campus crime ”low”
All parties agree crime is not a major concern on the MUW campus. Flanery”s was the first reported dorm burglary this semester. Parker says fewer than five were reported last year. Meaders says two cars have been burglarized on campus this semester and both had been left unlocked.
“The numbers are pretty low. But even one burglary is too much and I”m not the only person that”s had this happen to them,” said Flanery.
He is also asking the university to begin offering optional dorm insurance policies. Brigham says administrators are considering offering an in-house policy, but students can already carry private insurance.
“I believe homeowners insurance should cover most things students bring with them (to the dorms),” she said.
Parker says students are encouraged during orientation to place their personal belongings on their parents” insurance or seek a private policy.
Finally, Flanery says he would like to see surveillance cameras installed around campus.
“With campus being right in the middle of Columbus, it”s very easy to access walking on and off. And the safety of the girls walking around campus at night and our cars is a major concern,” he said.
Meaders said non-students visiting the open campus isn”t a problem. The problem is students not paying attention to their surroundings.
“What people have to do is be more safety conscious. When people go in (a locked dorm) they go straight to the elevator. They need to look around and make sure the resident hall door locks behind them,” he said.
But keeping intruders out won”t necessarily stop burglaries. Meaders points out that many suites in dorms which share a bathroom offer another access point if the inner doors aren”t locked.
If none of his security suggestions come about and he only serves to raise safety awareness on campus, Flanery says his effort will be worthwhile.
“I think it will be a good thing to leave our mark that students worked with administration for safety,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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