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Gotcha! Campus crime prevention program earns high marks.

College students generally have more on their minds than security and crime prevention. They may leave their valuables unattended or allow strangers access to restricted areas. And, when they do...Gotcha!

For the past 5 years, the Towson State University Police Department has worked to decrease crime on campus and to improve the crime prevention awareness and attitudes of the students and faculty with a program called "Gotcha." Under this program, uniformed officers of both the patrol division and the K-9 section search the campus for security or safety violations, such as open or unlocked doors or valuables left unattended. Once found, the officers leave key-shaped "Gotcha" cards at the scene of the infraction.

The cards say: "If this had been an actual 'Rip Off,' you would have been a statistic. Don't give a thief an opportunity to rip you off. Lock it up!" The cards also have spaces for officers to identify the applicable security/safety violation, such as "your door unlocked," "your valuables left in plain view," or "equipment not secured." A blank space allows officers to make additional comments.

Plainclothes officers direct another aspect of the Gotcha Program. They test the university community's security awareness by attempting to get students and faculty to give them access to restricted or secure areas, which have no trespassing warnings clearly posted at all entrances. If admitted, the officers identify themselves and discuss how the individual should handle the situation differently in the future. They also explain the importance of security and crime prevention, as well as the campus community's role in each. Increasing student awareness of the program's goals remains a top priority of the department, because each school year brings a new class of students to campus. This requires officers to conduct crime prevention and security awareness seminars throughout each school year.


The Gotcha Program has successfully decreased crime on campus. Students and faculty are more security conscious, and their increased interaction with the police has made them more willing to provide information on crimes that do occur. This cooperative effort between the police and the community led to the department's recovery of almost $50,000 in stolen property in calendar year 1992. In addition, the department's crime prevention section, which sponsors the program, has been honored with the Governor's Annual Crime Prevention Award every year since the award's inception in 1985.


The Gotcha Program reflects the Towson State University Police Department's commitment to protect and serve the campus community. It has become a critical tool in the fight against crime on campus. Furthermore, it reminds students and faculty that they are the "key" to successful crime prevention. The "Gotcha" test may be the most important exam students take all year.

Corporal Utz serves with the Towson State University Police Department, Towson, Maryland.
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Title Annotation:Towson State University Police Department's crime prevention program
Author:Utz, Thomas E.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Check kiting: detection, prosecution and prevention.
Next Article:Law enforcement and the deaf community.

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