“Blend-in” criminals striking Biola

Campus Safety officials say the “blend-in tactic,” in which criminals dress similar to their surroundings to commit crimes, is beginning to strike Biola.

Kathryn Watson, Writer

Campus Safety officials have noticed that the “blend-in tactic,” in which criminals dress similar to their surroundings to commit crimes, is beginning to strike Biola’s campus.

Campus Safety usually looks specifically for suspicious persons and makes contact with them, said John Ojeisekhoba, Chief of Campus Safety. However,he and other officers have noticed in the greater community at large that detecting potential criminals is becoming increasingly difficult. In the instance of a vehicle theft last Friday from the parking lot near Horton Hall, the suspect dressed just like a student, backpack and all. But in less than one minute, that individual successfully stole a student’s Honda Accord, Ojeisekhoba said. The incident is still under investigation. This marks the first case of this trend on Biola’s campus, Ojeisekhoba said.

“The suspect dressed exactly like a student,” he said.

Ojeisekhoba urged students to continue to exercise caution with this in mind, but wanted them to know he and the department are currently working on strategies to deal with this new trend. Further safety initiatives will be implemented “immediately,” he said.

Ojeisekhoba, a member of the California Chiefs of Campus Safety, a group that meets once a month to discuss crime prevention tactics, said safety representatives from other campuses are noticing this tactic at their colleges and universities too. Ojeisekhoba has also noticed this trend in Garden Grove, where he serves as a police officer.

“They (criminal suspects) put on whatever attire that will match the community where they’re going,” he said. In business districts, criminals wear slack shirts and ties “so they don’t stand out.”

Regarding Friday’s car theft, Ojeisekhoba said the stolen vehicle was a Honda Accord, the car most stolen in the U.S., according to an August report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The Honda Accord is followed by the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, for the top three most stolen vehicles, as most of them don’t have anti-theft devices, he said. Ojeisekhoba intended to send out a letter to owners of those cars explaining how to keep their cars secure.

“Our intention is not to exaggerate and stock fear in people, but rather, we just want a much safer environment,” Ojeisekhoba said.

In the meantime, officials urged students to take simple precautionary measures, as not even Biola is perfectly safe. Campus Safety worries more about people who don’t belong on campus committing crimes than in-house crimes. However, Biola’s crime rate is relatively low, even among universities similar to it in size, Ojeisekhoba said. Precautionary measures, however, such as locking car doors, are emphasized each year, said Justin Shelby, public information officer for Campus Safety. But they may prevent crimes such as car theft. Ojeisekhoba emphasized that the safety of persons and their property is the explicit duty of Campus Safety, and Campus Safety prefers preventing crime to responding to it.

One of Campus Safety’s preventative procedures took place between the Aug. 14 and 28, when security was heightened and the number of officers patrolling campus increased. Campus Safety wanted to take extra precautionary measures especially while new students were moving to Biola. In the meantime, Campus Safety officials said they’re trying to be one step ahead of crime.

“We don’t want to sit on our hands,” Ojeisekhoba said. “We want to be proactive.”

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