The Cavalier Daily
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Policing crime through self-awareness

WHEN MOM and Dad tell you to be careful, they mean it.

If the startling criminal incidents of the last few days have taught us anything, it is that we are not nearly as safe as we might pretend to be. Just because we attend a top-tier school in an idyllic setting does not mean that violent crime will fall by the wayside. To the contrary, the fact that we are college students might just make us more susceptible to crime, through no fault of our own. The best response we can make as University students is to adopt a more proactive approach to protecting ourselves.

Often, the first reaction to incidents like those that occurred in the past week is to call for increased police presence. This is wishful thinking. The police cannot be everywhere at all times. And when you think about it, you probably would not want them to be. There are many times throughout University life where the police are actually a bothersome presence, not a particularly helpful one. Whether it is shutting down parties when they have become "too loud" or the enforcement of nonsensical drinking laws, the police, while they certainly have a job to do, often act against student self-interest.

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    Aside from privacy concerns, the issue of police resources limits just what the police can do to protect us. Anyone who has passed by the Corner on a weekend night knows that the police are out in force. Due to the volatile combination of huge crowds of students and alcohol, a police presence helps deter crimes from occurring.

    However, reported the sexual assault of last Saturday morning happened inside a student's 13th Street home. On Monday, an attempted mugging at knifepoint was reported right in front of a student's apartment. In March, there was a reported robbery at University Circle. And in February there was a reported robbery at Lambeth -- while the students were home. What do these all have in common? They took place inside or near students' homes. The police cannot station themselves on every side street or in front of every apartment complex.

    For the reasons mentioned before, we wouldn't want them to. The solution is to do a better job of looking out for ourselves.

    There is a peculiar attitude that prevails at college campuses -- particularly the ones like ours that reside in smaller cities and towns, separated from many of the conditions that are unique to life in big cities. In a sense -- whether we admit it or not -- college is a kind of "adult camp," where we engage in schoolwork part of the time, but have far more leisure time left over than we would if we were fully part of the work force.

    I am just as guilty of this "adult camp" mentality as anyone else. The result of this attitude is that we sometimes forget how vulnerable we are to the types of crimes visible in recent days. We grow comfortable with the idea that somehow Charlottesville is a bubble where threats to our safety are fairly limited. This makes us complacent, and that is where the trouble begins.

    We neglect the fact that there are significant dangers in our fair city. As nice a place as it is, there are parts of Charlottesville that the overwhelming majority of students never pass through. The closest many of us get is the Lucky Seven on Grady Avenue. Because we are not physically near these neighborhoods, we tend to forget that they exist. But it is these same neighborhoods that may produce many of the criminals that plague the University community.

    The only solution, short of converting Charlottesville into a police state, is for all of us to simply be aware. Be aware of who is behind you if you choose, unwisely, to walk home from Clemons. Be aware of other people around you as you approach your car in the parking lot. Be aware of whether your apartment's door is locked or not. And perhaps most

    importantly, as two city residents learned Monday morning, be aware of the fact that just because you are with another person -- which is good -- it does not preclude you from falling victim to the types of local criminals that prey on students' false sense of security.

    Since the police can only do so much, it is up to us as students to create a safer environment to study, live and work in. We have a tendency to believe that the University community is a sort of bubble inside of which we face very few safety threats. The unfortunate events of the past week highlight the fact that we all need to exercise far greater caution in our daily lives. Charlottesville can be a dangerous place, particularly for students. A healthy dose of common sense with a touch of paranoia can go a long way towards making our community safe again.

    (Timothy DuBoff's column appears Fridays in The Cavalier Daily.)

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