Washburn Police Department battling campus crime with Operation Identification program

Caleb Wasson

Crime prevention doesn’t always require expensive equipment or hours of hard work. For students at Washburn University, all it takes is filling out a form.

In an effort to battle on-campus theft, the Washburn University Police Department developed a program called Operation Identification. This program was developed as a way for students to keep a record of their personal property on file with the Washburn Police Department.

“We ask students to somehow mark books and personal property with a special series of numbers so that, should they get stolen, we can try to get the items back to them,” said Ronette Robinson, campus resource officer for Washburn Police Department.

The easiest way to identify personal property, said Robinson, is the serial number that is already affixed to the item. If there is no serial number on the property, an engraver is available at the Washburn Police Department that can be used to apply a unique identification number on the item. To identify textbooks, students are asked to pick a page in the book and create a unique identifying mark.

“We don’t want them to use personal numbers such as social security numbers or date of birth,” said Robinson. “An example would be a series of letters, numbers, symbols or circling certain words on page 55 of every book.”

Operation Identification has been in place for almost three years, said Dean Forster, chief of Washburn Police Department. However, a few changes have been made this year in an effort to redevelop the program.

“We have changed the form a little bit and have really picked up out efforts to get the word out about the program,” said Forster. “I think it is a great program-it has helped us a lot.”

In order to inform students about Operation Identification, the Washburn Police department set up a table up in the Living Learning Center during move-in day and explained the program to students. The student response to the program has been slow.

“So far, we probably have less than 100 forms returned to us,” said Robinson. “I would be more than thrilled to fill up a file cabinet with them.”

Students who want to register their property with Operation Identification must fill out the Operation Identification form, make a copy for themselves and return a copy to the Washburn University police office. Copies of the form are available in the LLC, Washburn Village, the Bookstore and the Washburn University police department.

There were five reported cases of theft on Washburn’s campus during the month of January. Textbooks and electronic devices such as cell phones, MP3 players and laptops are the most commonly reported stolen items, said Forster. Theft can occur at all times of the day or night, so students should always take precautionary steps to avoid becoming a victim.

“A lot of crime prevention is common sense,” said Robinson. “Locking doors, hiding valuables, little things like that. If you live in a dorm or apartment or even a house, become familiar with your neighbors. Be observant to what people are doing around you.”

Most items being stolen are things simply left unattended, said Robinson. Students have been known to set backpacks down to use the restroom or to run a quick errand-leaving thieves with a great opportunity.

“Students should definitely register their property with Operation Identification so, if it is recovered, it can be given back to them,” said Robinson. “Also, just keep an eye on your stuff. If you are feeling uncomfortable with your situation, do not hesitate to call WU police department.”