Hit-and-runs, thefts plague school’s start

Since the start of fall classes and the weeks leading up to it, campus police have received several petty theft and hit-and-run reports in areas along Sam Sibley Drive and Caspari Street.

According to Campus Police, six hit-and-runs and 16 petty theft complaints have been reported between Aug. 17 and Sept. 17. Two of the hit-and-runs took place on Sam Sibley Drive while two were reported on Caspari Street and one in a parking lot nearby.

NSU Police Department Captain Wesley Harrell has been on staff for six years and assured it is common to see multiple reports of hit-and-runs in the first couple months of school.

“You see it more toward the beginning of a semester because folks are not used to driving on this campus, or maybe they are not paying attention,” he said.

While there is seemingly no pattern with thefts overall, police currently have four open theft cases reported Sept. 5 that took place hours apart from each other.

On a normal day, Harrell said there are four to five officers patrolling campus. With thousands of students on the Natchitoches campus, they must ensure all areas are patrolled.

“I feel safe, but it’s a pain in the ass to smoke on campus,” one junior said.

In 2014, the Louisiana Legislature mandated all college campuses adopt tobacco-free policies by Aug. 1 – policies students often ignore.

Harrell said most reported thefts on campus are instances of unlocked cars. He urged students to put any valuables out of sight and lock all the doors. Harrell said it is surprising how many cars are unlocked during the day.

While campus police investigate reports they receive, not all thefts are reported. According to several students, Frog Pond Apartments is a hot spot for petty theft. Students living there are warned to lock their cars and take any valuables out.

One student currently living at the apartments revealed her car was broken into Aug. 30. The car was not damaged, but the student noticed both her phone and marijuana grinder were missing. Though campus police have jurisdiction anywhere in Natchitoches, the student chose not to report because of the type of item that was stolen.

Harrell would like to see more student and police interaction; he often encourages his officers to go out and speak with the students. His goal is to “bridge the gap,” so students will feel comfortable speaking with officers.

“If you see something, please say something,” he said.

Hit-and-runs will likely decrease as the semester continues, and students can prevent theft by taking the necessary precautions. At the end of the day, the police are here to assist and protect campus and the people on it.

Campus police can be contacted by phone at 318-357-5431 and are available 24/7 at the police station.