Fri | Feb 28, 2020

UWI robberies raise alarm

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 12:32 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
The entrance to the Mary Seacole Hall at the UWI, Mona.
A security guard patrols a residential hall at the Mona campus on Sunday.

Strained relations among the three security agencies tasked with securing students and faculty at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, have been cited as a key reason why robberies and break-ins at the tertiary institution are still a major worry.

The theory is based on recent break-ins that have left victims questioning the value for money spent on the UWI’s security apparatus, the latest of which occurred on Saturday night, when a burglar entered the house occupied by well-known women’s-rights activist Nadeen Spence on the Mary Seacole Hall.

It was the second time in just under two months that Spence, who is student services and development manager for Seacole Hall, has suffered badly at the hands of thieves at her home on campus.

“Last November, there was a break-in and the thief went upstairs, where he relieved me of my laptop, two cellular phones, a camera, and money from a next room,” Spence explained.

“This time, they used a small patio table around the back to climb on to the grille and up on to the roof to gain access to the top windows, which are not grilled. It could have been worse, but luckily, he was an unarmed thief,” she said.

Spence believes that enough is not being done to address the long-standing security concerns on campus even though close to $30 million per month is being spent on securing the 650-acre premises.

She said that the relationship among the campus police, the Mona police, and the contracted security company needs to be revisited as indications are that trust among the three is at its lowest ebb.

“This is nothing new. None of them really trusts the other. But it cannot be at the expense of persons here,” Spence said.

open-capus policy not safe

Another theory offered for the frequency of break-ins is that the UWI’s open-campus policy makes it easy for anyone to access the compound under the guise of being a student.

Meanwhile, Norman Heywood, chief of security at The UWI, Mona, is urging students, in particular, not to leave valuables on their car seats.

A recent advisory sent to students detailed how persons can protect their interests, including warnings to avoid certain areas at night.

But concerns abound that not enough CCTV cameras are installed on campus.

“The university has gone through and has improved the lighting significantly on the campus since November last year, and the incidence of break-ins has been considerably reduced,” said Heywood.

Further, he said that the campus administration is working on acquiring more CCTV cameras.

“We had a meeting last week Thursday, where we looked at the whole security surveillance. ... So probably in the first quarter, you will see the roll-out of additional cameras.”

He said that some accounts of campus are based on sensationalism.

For Spence, it is an ordeal she would rather do without experiencing again.

“Twice is enough. I am now trying to get the university to move me as I am no longer comfortable. I don’t feel safe here. Anytime I hear anything, I panic, and it’s not good for me,” she said.

“I feel like I am a sitting duck. I feel like anytime they want to come, they will come in, and that’s an awful thought.”