On any given day, at any given time, you may be able to find officer Pat McGill roaming the halls of the first year center. He goes from door to door, checking each one, making sure it’s locked. But, if it’s not, he’s “Gotcha!”
“RAs or another officer will go out with me and check door knobs,” McGill said. “If it’s unlocked, we’ll knock and get someone to come to the door and warn them about the dangers of leaving their doors unlocked. If no one comes to the door, we announce that we’re the police. We see if any one is inside. If they’re not, we lock their door and put a card in it, telling them we found their door unlocked.”
The program, which has been in place for over a decade, also involves generating a report of what doors were left unlocked and which rooms were unoccupied. These reports are sent to the chief of police as well as housing. And the program has been helping.
“Usually, when we go back to a room that was found unlocked, it’s locked this time,” McGill said. “If it’s unlocked, it was usually left unlocked by a different roommate, one that we didn’t talk to.”
These records aren’t always strictly for office use. They’re also used as a record in case there is a robbery.
“If a parent comes to us, upset because something was stolen out of their child’s room, we can pull that up,” McGill said. “Then we can show them that they left their door unlocked on this date.”
Those who have gotten the ominous yellow slips stuck in their doors when they left their rooms unlocked might understand the possible consequences if someone other than a police officer had made a visit to their room.
“Now I’ll check before I go to sleep to make sure my door is locked,” freshman and aviation flight technology major Ryan Muth said.
In the wake of the Phelps Hall robberies where EMU students broke into unlocked dorms, this program has become more important than ever to encourage students to become proactive with their safety.
“I had a guy with his room unlocked once,” McGill said. “Two weeks later, he had a break-in to his room. He didn’t really take the warning.”
But this is an exception to the norm, as break-ins were down over all last year, thanks in part to the Gotcha! program and the support from the police and RA’s as well.
“I didn’t realize that so many doors were unlocked,” Phong Lam, a junior, RA and nursing major, said. “But I will of course encourage my residents to lock their doors.”
The only way to be safe from the yellow Gotcha! slips and potential thieves is to keep your doors locked at all times.
“Any officer can check doors,” McGill said. “And at any time: Morning, afternoons, midnights. It’s not just late at night this is happening.”
But, if the cops are showing up at your door, it’s better that it’s for a warning and not so you can fill out a police report.
“It didn’t make me start locking my door, but it made me more cautious,” freshmen and business management major James Johnson said. “But if someone else came to my door, I’d have to call the cops anyway.”