Blog Post Author: Georgiana Mihut
Date: May 2016
Community Awareness Notice
Friday, May 13th at 4:39 p.m. members of the BC community have received a community awareness notice. The email informed the BC affiliates that on the morning of the same day the BC police responded to a call regarding a case of attempted theft on campus. The suspect was not apprehended, but during the pursuit two stolen laptops were recovered. The notice goes on to advise the BC affiliates on steps that could be taken to avoid similar incidents. Broadly, we are encouraged to secure our belongings in various forms. The BC police is legally obliged to issues such notifications.
This is another community awareness notice.
Some readers will observe that the community awareness notice fails to discuss that while one can always do more and better to protect their property, such actions are not enough to avoid the prevalence, and indeed sometimes the need, for theft in our society. If the purpose of the community notice is to facilitate the prevention of theft, then it is appropriate to consider a broader spectrum of suggestions beyond personal protection. My argument here is two fold. First, the prevalence and degree of theft is a complex social phenomenon that will continue to exit even if individuals better protect their personal property. Second, that the university campuses can use future similar incidents as an educational moment that increases awareness about inequality and broader societal problems.
The link between theft and economic and social inequality remains contested. However, at the individual level it is known that various factors ranging from psychological conditions and compulsions to various degrees of economic deprivation compel individuals to steal. While the influence of various factors outside of one’s control on economically motivated crime should not steer the judicial and law enforcement systems away from protecting individuals, those compelled to steal too need protection, sometimes even more that their victims. Friday the 13th’s notices, and others with the same characteristics, are missed opportunities to engage our compassion, promote reflection and motivate us to improve the conditions that lead to crime at least as much as we are motivated to watch our bags closely.
If BC affiliated individuals do indeed form a community, it is because of loose bonds given by an aggregated quest to educate ourselves, to enrich our understanding of the world so we are better prepared to pursue “a just society”. In light of this quest, I believe and advocate that this incident and similar ones be accompanied by an additional note added to the community notice. This additional note is aimed at making community members better aware, would be included at the end of the mandated notice following the steps individuals could take to protect themselves, and would read “Contribute towards creating a just and better society where nobody feels compelled to steal”.
p.s. In a recent act of social justice that may or may not be related to the BC incident, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that stealing food while unable to afford to buy it does not constitute a crime.