Lock doors: Simple act could prevent many crimes of opportunity

April 03, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- Leaving an office door open or keeping a residence hall door unlocked are just a couple examples of situations that could literally open the door for a criminal act on the University Park campus of Penn State.

Certain criminals -- by definition -- only act when specific circumstances present themselves and those culprits leave unsuspecting victims in their wake.

"There are two types of criminals -- opportunistic criminals and evil criminals," said Clifford Lutz, assistant director of University Police. "Preventing acts by evil criminals is difficult, but crime perpetrated by opportunistic criminals is easily prevented."

Statistics show that a high percentage of crimes occur where opportunities exist.

In 2006, 85 percent (39 of 46) of all burglaries on the University Park campus of Penn State occurred when doors were left unlocked; in 2005, 91 percent (41 of 45) of burglaries on campus took place when doors were unlocked. Burglary is categorized as a Part I criminal offense and, along with theft, has the highest incidence of this category of crime on campus. Other Part I criminal offenses include criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, assault and arson.

Considering the large number of people on campus during the course of a year -- almost 43,000 students enrolled, of which more than 14,000 live on campus; more than 11,500 nonstudent employees; and the large number of visitors each year -- the University Park campus of Penn State enjoys a relatively low crime rate.

But there are precautions, in addition to locking all doors, students living in residence halls can take to help further reduce crime while protecting themselves and those living with them.

"The University does its best to provide quality, physical security so I would urge students to take advantage of this. Use the card-security system the way it's designed, don't allow others to piggy back through doors and politely challenge strangers who try and talk their way past the security," said Lutz.

Lutz continues, "Not everyone in the residence hall is a resident and not everyone encountered in the hallway is a student. Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, report it."

University Police are available for emergencies 24 hours a day at 911 or (814) 863-1111; nonemergency calls are taken at (814) 865-1864.

Crime statistics for Pennsylvania are available at http://ucr.psp.state.pa.us/UCR/Reporting/Monthly/Summary/MonthlySumOffen... online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009