Do you feel safe living in Waterloo?

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

A number of recent crimes taking place in Waterloo, specifically in the student community of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, have raised concerns about the safety of students.

While out of town for the weekend in late Sepetember, third-year Wilfrid Laurier student Chris Allam woke up to a call from his roommates, explaining that his laptop, along with shoes, DVDs, Xbox games and other laptops from the rest of the house, had been stolen.

“I’m still slightly bitter about the situation,” explained Allam. “It could have been avoided by simply remembering to lock the door, but mistakes happen.”

In addition to break-ins such as this, personal theft has been another issue.

The robbery and assault on Elgin Crescent a few weeks back is one example of this, where two female students were robbed of their shopping bags and one woman sustained bruises after being punched in the face.

More recently, a man was beaten around King Street North and University Avenue early Tuesday morning because he confronted a man who stole his drink. After confronting him, he was punched in the face and then three other males joined in and pushed him to the ground, continuing the assault. According to a witness, one of the men pulled out an object that looked like a handgun, pointing it at the victim.

“Personally, I’m paranoid,” said Ariel Clark, a second-year psychology student who commutes from Cambridge.

She explained that her knowledge on crime stories in Waterloo has increased recently and that she is concerned about her safety.

When asked about advice for students on preventive measures for thefts and robberies, Kevin Thaler, executive officer at the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS), stated, “You want to avoid being the victim. Don’t travel alone, drink in moderation, travel in well lit areas and let people know where you are going.”

While he believes that students are not specifically targeted in Waterloo, noting that crimes can take place anywhere with anyone, such as in malls and church parking lots, student residences are often easy for criminals because students are in a hurry to get out and typically forget to lock their door or take other precautionary measures.

“Many of our thefts are because doors were left unlocked,” added Thaler.

“We now pretty much always have our door locked, even if it’s the middle of the day,” Allam remarked.

Chris Hancocks, operations manager for Special Constables, agreed with Thaler’s statement about safety.

“Be aware of your surroundings and walk in groups. It’s common knowledge,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say that the fault lies on the students, but you do have to be mindful of your property and your surroundings,” Staff Sergeant Dale Roe from the University of Waterloo explained further.

Thaler concluded, “I don’t want to put the blame on them, I’m just saying there is a way to avoid being the victim.”

Both Hancocks and Roe explained that they haven’t seen a fluctuating increase in crimes, specifically because they deal with campus based incidents, but neither service has been in communication with the WRPS to take any new precautions; the same precautions are in order and serve well.

While the police haven’t noticed a large spike in the crime rate in Waterloo, it goes without saying that all citizens of the city must take precautions.

Thaler stated that the regional police, along with both campus police services, take safety measures at the beginning of the school year, when new students are in the city and returning ones need a reminder.

“A reminder doesn’t hurt, there are things you can do to prevent being the victim,” he explained.

He also explained that many people believe they are untouchable, acknowledging that “a lot of people have the attitude that it ‘won’t happen to me.’”

However, Thaler admitted that he himself carried that attitude until he was proved wrong. He added that other people should not feel invincible.

Louie Infusino, a fourth-year communication studies student, explained his concerns. “Students are putting themselves in a vulnerable position,” he stated, in regard to unlocked doors and careless precautions.

“People who are engaging in criminal activities have begun to take advantage of this naïve population.”

While it is easy to argue that robbery and theft can be stopped simply by being aware of your surroundings and locking up behind you, that is not necessarily the case.

“Victims can reduce the opportunity, but they can’t remove the opportunity entirely,” said Thaler.

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