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Keeping students safe from theft

Courtesy Photo

A new UNK Police Department program is helping prevent crime before it happens. 

UNKPD officers implemented the “GOTCHA!” program this fall to raise awareness about crimes of opportunity and to help students steer clear of theft.

“Obviously you didn’t intend to be a victim,” said Ricci Fast, UNKPD chief. “So I think by raising awareness of ‘Oh shoot, we’re lucky that it was a cop that came through here and found it and not a bad guy,’ that’s our whole goal – to try and limit people being victims of theft.”

Officers carry business cards that say “GOTCHA!” in bright red. If they come across an item left unattended, officers leave the card to help the owner realize that they could have fallen victim to theft. 

Fast said officers leave the card anytime they see something that could lead to someone being a potential victim of some kind of crime. The cards are left on more than just unattended high-risk items such as computers, AirPods, phones and the most commonly stolen item – bikes. If officers come across an empty open dorm room or office, they will close the door and leave a card as well.

Right now, officers are trying to directly reach the students who need it most. It’s most common for officers to see unattended items from freshmen, as they are new to campus and come from home where they might not think about the potential of theft as often.

One freshman highlighted her increased awareness of theft since coming to college.

“I was never worried about theft because I’m from a small town and everybody knows everybody,” said Joee Clevenger, freshman interior design major. “You’re not worried about it, but here, you definitely have to think about it.”

Laura Stokey, a UNKPD officer who helped create the program,  plans to push the program out more at the start of the spring semester.

“We don’t want this to blend into another new year new thing,” Stokey said. “We want it to really stand out and make an impact to help keep these people safe. So while it is great for everybody, we want to make sure that people that really need it, see it first and it doesn’t just get lost in the shuffle of papers and bulletin boards and flyers of information.”

Students can register their items with UNKPD to help increase the chances of finding an item if it is stolen. Registration allows students to submit a description of their item, serial number and picture of the item. Stokey said it is not required that an item has a serial number to be registered, but it is helpful in the long run if it does.

Property registration is linked on UNKPD’s “GOTCHA!” page or can be located by scanning the QR code on the back of the “GOTCHA!” card.

Stokey said she hopes the program helps to decrease crime on campus by helping students be more mindful about leaving their stuff unattended.

“Crime is going to exist,” Stokey said. “So we’re going to do everything we can to prevent it from happening and keep the students safe.”

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Jenna Heinz, Reporter
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