Thefts have increased since last semester in the Ornelas Health and Physical Education gym, a commonly used center for students of Tyler Junior College.
“If we can catch one thief, we can solve many crimes,” said Executive Director of Security and Public Service Careers, Thomas A. Johnson. “Twenty percent of the people commit 80 percent of the crimes.”
On Jan. 16, a student placed a backpack down outside of the Gentry Gymnasium and proceeded to play basketball. When the student came back to retrieve his/her belongings, the backpack was gone. The student then reported the backpack stolen to the front desk.
“Theft is merely a crime of opportunity,” said TJC Campus Police Chief, Randy Melton.
The OHPE is equipped with locker rooms, and students are strongly encouraged to use them. Although, the lockers do not have combination locks on them, students can buy combination locks at a local store or at the campus bookstore. Another safety feature that is provided to the students is at the front desk; students are able to acquire a combination lock at the front desk if they leave some form of collateral.
“If something is stolen of low value, they [students] will not bother to report it,” said Johnson. “It doesn’t matter how small the theft is, we do need to report it.”
Johnson would like students to know that the TJC Campus Police is a fully functioning police department. Many of the campus police officers are of the same level of officers found in the city of Tyler and are able to act upon any crime quickly. Therefore, it is highly recommended that students report thefts and other crimes.
Many times, students who have committed thefts have stolen items in the past, and the report of one crime can be linked to another. If a student is caught stealing, the punishment can be severe. The thief, if caught, could face two different consequences. They are categorized by administrative action or criminal charges. If the charge is administrative, the charge is reported to the Dean of Students, Damien Williams. The student will have a hearing with Williams, who will then decide if the student will be suspended or, in some cases, expelled.
With a criminal charge, a student can be cited or even arrested. This occurs when students commit crimes off campus. If the offender is a TJC student, then, “… the charges can be carried over into the student’s school reports and records,” said Johnson.
Although thefts have been on the rise over the course of the new semester, actions to prevent these thefts are ultimately left up to the students. If students take precautions like locking up their lockers and being aware of where they put their personal belongings, authorities are confident thefts will decrease.
Allison Parks, a freshman at TJC, who works at the front desk of the OHPE, said she had never personally had anything stolen and many times, things aren’t.
“The locker room… is safe,” Ms. Parks said.
Any students who have information of a crime which needs to be reported, should call the Campus Police at (903) 510-2222.