Students look for scapegoat

CN/ Kien Ha

By Augustine Ugalde

It was suggested in this space last week that East Los Angeles College is somehow an unsafe place to be.

The commentary advanced the notion that because of a vehicular burglary that resulted in the theft of a laptop, books and money from student Yadira Hernandez, we were all at risk when on campus. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is not a commentary that looks to downplay the circumstances surrounding Hernandez’s plight, but only to purport that, statistically speaking, ELAC is one of the safest places to be. What happened to Hernandez was terrible.

An AB 540 student, Hernandez lost expensive learning tools, her laptop and textbooks, and money she needed for her education.

AB 540 students are not eligible for financial aid, so these students must fend for themselves when seeking higher education. Being the victim of this type of crime is no fun.

Many years ago, one of my cars was burglarized and I remember opening the car door and noticing that the contents of my glove compartment were strewn all over the inside of my car and that several items were missing.

The items taken from me did not equal in value what Hernandez lost but the feeling of having your personal space invaded outweighed the loss of replaceable items.

Victims of this type of crime feel violated and somehow the wake of the thief can still be felt afterwards. How dare some idiot break into my safety-zone and take what is not his? – is the feeling that comes over victims.

There are thieves out there.  That is a fact of life and the best thing we can do is to protect ourselves. It is unclear as to whether or not Hernandez left her possessions in plain sight, but according to the Campus Sheriffs, that is usually the case.

We must take personal responsibility for our personal safety and that of our possessions. There are enough criminals out there so we don’t need to attract the fringe criminal – the opportunistic criminal to ourselves.

It was suggested last week that the school should increase patrols in the parking structure and install video cameras to keep an eye on criminal activity, but the bottom line is that it is us that need to be more careful. The Campus Sheriffs cannot be in every place at every time and video surveillance is not as keen a tool as some people may think.

We live in a society where people seem to always look to blame someone else for our own mistakes; well that doesn’t cut it here. People need to be accountable for their own actions. That’s it; end of story.

According to the Jeanne Clery crime statistics, which are published on ELAC’s home page, the school averages about two vehicular burglaries a month – a statistic confirmed by the Campus Sheriffs.

Grand theft auto incidents vary a bit more, but still, the average is about two to three thefts per month.

In the City of Monterey Park, where approximately 60,000 people reside, there are an average of 12 – 14 vehicular burglaries a month reported and about 25 – 30 auto thefts. Since the population of the city is about twice the number of Elans on campus, it is safe to say that vehicles are safer here than parked on city streets, shopping centers, theaters, or in your own driveways.

People should not allow themselves to become victims. Look around your surroundings whenever you park somewhere and not only on campus.

Take note of suspicious looking people and the vehicles they may be driving and don’t leave anything of value in plain sight. If you are an evening student, walk with classmates to your cars, or call for a Campus Sheriff escort; that is what they are here for.

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim.

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