BU Today

Health & Wellness

Cell Phones a Dangerous Distraction at Night

Muggers target iPhones in recent attacks on students


Earlier this month, two female students were robbed and roughed up in separate incidents near the Shaw’s supermarket on Comm Ave. In both cases, the women were walking alone after midnight, talking on their cell phones. The suspect in each robbery was described as a college-age black male wearing a ball cap.

“Both victims had an iPhone,” says Scott Pare, BU’s deputy director of public safety. “They are attractive pieces of equipment. One of the victims lost her pocketbook, as well.”

University campuses and surrounding neighborhoods are prime targets for criminals, especially thieves, day or night. While property theft is the most common crime reported, more serious offenses take place, as well. From January 2010 to July 25, 2010, according to BUPD, two sexual assaults, eight assaults, one aggravated assault, and three robberies were reported on campus. Some of those numbers may be higher, as police acknowledge that crimes like rape and indecent assault tend to be underreported. The two recent robberies technically occurred off campus and are being handled by the Boston Police Department.

BU Today caught up with Pare to ask how students can better protect themselves when they are out and about.

BU Today: Does a cell phone make you more of a target?
Walking around talking on your cell phone after midnight probably isn’t the best way to keep your wits about you. You want to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night when your senses should be more keen. Your cell phone is a huge distraction. I know I’ve been places where you’re on your cell phone and you go from point A to point B and forget what happened in between. You arrive at your destination and say, “How did I get here?” The same with headphones. You can’t hear anything around because you have the music blaring. You can’t hear traffic, trains, someone on a bike. You’d never hear someone running up behind you.

What precautions should students take at night?
It would help if you walk with somebody, because you’re less of a target. Try and stay in a well-lit, well-traveled area. Avoid those dark alleys. If you know you’re going to be walking home late, make plans in advance so you can walk home with somebody.

Do college students have a false sense of security?
The crime rate is very low on this campus. With that you have this feeling of comfort, which is great, but you do end up letting your guard down. It’s a double-edged sword.

Is BU a popular target for thieves?
BU is certainly an appealing place. The university environment, in general, is. The population is large. Thieves know students have laptops and other electronic devices. Unfortunately, kids leave them unattended. Ninety to 95 percent of theft reports we review are “unattendeds,” meaning leaving your laptop or iPhone at your desk while you go for a break or a coffee. The same with leaving your room and offices unlocked. It’s not just students. It’s faculty and staff, too. You go down the hall for five minutes and something’s missing from your office. Larceny is the highest crime on campus, on all campuses. Unfortunately, every once in a while we have assaults like the ones reported [this month].

Is it best to cooperate with your mugger?
These items aren’t worth your safety, so why risk getting injured or worse? If you’re physically attacked all bets are off, and you have to fight back and defend yourself. We do offer RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) classes, and if a group wants to have a RAD class, they can contact us directly. We’ll do a class anywhere, anytime.

Does registering valuables help?
We do free laptop and bike registration. This doesn’t prevent theft, but we can put [a report] in a national crime database, and if the items are located anywhere and the numbers are run, at least there’s a chance of getting them back.

How often does that happen?
It’s not real common. So the best plan is prevention.

Any advice to students coming from a non-city environment?
BU is extremely safe, but don’t let your guard down. This is a large city and it certainly changes when it gets dark. It’s best if you can walk with someone else. If you can’t, we do have an escort security service on campus. Stay off your cell phone. If you need to make a call, be conscious of what’s around you.

BUPD urges students, faculty, and staff to report suspicious people and activity on or near campus by calling 617-353-2121 or text messaging tip411 (847411), keyword: BU. The BUPD phone number is located on the back of every Terrier ID Card.

The Escort Security Service can be reached at 617-353-4877.

To learn more about RAD, click here.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.


One Comment on Cell Phones a Dangerous Distraction at Night

  • Christina on 07.28.2010 at 10:43 am

    This is good to know! I never knew that talking on you’re cellphone on the way home at nighttime could be so hazardous… I’m attending BU for grad school this year, and my undergraduate college was very small and woodsy so when I walked the long woodsy back path back to my dorm every night, i would talk on my cellphone to someone, or “pretend” I was by keeping an emergency contact number up on my screen incase there was an emergency, and I had to quick call someone. and use it as a light to stay safe since it was so dark. I always kept my keys in my other hand though. but I guess every campus is different, and bu is a big campus so there are a lot more people around, and people driving on the road, so of course, talking on the cellphone wouldn’t be safe. thanks again for this article!

Post Your Comment

(never shown)