Monday, October 14

Chris Busco: UCLA should act on longstanding security threats to university apartments


On the morning of Feb. 6, the University Apartments North Administration Office sent an email to UCLA’s university apartment residents detailing serious crimes that occurred within the immediate off-campus vicinity. Notwithstanding such crimes, numerous undergraduate residents went home that evening to unsecured university apartment complexes.

Just this school year, there have been three burglaries in the vicinity of university-managed off-campus apartments, and a handful of additional violent crimes in the North Village area. While none of these crimes took place in a university apartment complex, it’s hard for students to feel secure in UCLA apartments when the complexes lack working security measures.

I recently took it upon myself to see how extensive university apartments’ security problems were. A leisurely Saturday stroll turned dark when I found that four of the nine UCLA-managed undergraduate apartments had broken front-door locks – doors that could be thrust open, despite requiring keycard access. Two apartments even had broken doors leading into their parking garages.

That’s troubling, to say the least.

Click here for a high quality version of the graphic.

Although these findings are not extensive, they demonstrate the pervasive nature of these security issues. Coupled with the fact that some of these deficiencies have gone unresolved for months, it is clear that the safety and security of students living in the university apartments are not being prioritized. Students should feel safe moving about, retrieving mail or doing laundry within their apartment complexes. A lack of security means anybody could be roaming the halls these students call home.

UCLA must ensure university apartments are safe and the security infrastructure implemented in the gates and doors of these premises actually works.

Comprehensive security measures are already implemented on the Hill (i.e., restricted access after 9 p.m. and working keycard-restricted lobbies and elevators), where UCLA houses most of its undergraduate student population; it’s ridiculous that UCLA wouldn’t exert similar diligence at other university housing facilities.

Safety concerns over the unfettered public access to apartment complexes are not just a hypothetical. They’re a reality expressed by student residents.

“I feel very unsafe because it’s easy for anybody to come in and out of the building,” says Floremae Pidut, a third-year biology student who lives in a university apartment.

Niusha Maleki, a third-year political science student who moved into her Landfair apartment during fall quarter, shared Pidut’s safety concerns, particularly noting the lack of security when compared to the dorms.

What makes the security deficiencies even more egregious is that comparable security devices on the Hill work with more regularity. The Hill is crawling with working security protocols: students need a Bruincard to enter lobbies and utilize elevators, and Hill personnel enforce restricted access in some buildings after 9 p.m.

On the other hand, basic keycard access to apartment complex entrances didn’t even work for more than half of the undergraduate university apartments on Saturday. And that’s in light of off-campus housing being surrounded by more crime than the dorms – a fact the administration reminds residents of frequently with regular crime bulletins.

To add insult to injury, some of these security deficiencies have gone unaddressed for months. Maleki said the front gate to the Landfair university apartments has been broken since about the third week of fall quarter, and was still broken as of Saturday.

“It’s been like this for a really long time,” Maleki said.

In a statement, UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services said all recent maintenance work orders received were completed within the same day.

Surely infrastructure degrades over time, and it is inevitable that features like broken gates will have to be fixed. But a delay of months is not just inconvenient – it is unacceptable. When it comes to something as critical as safety features, it should not take any longer than a week for the university to solve or at least start addressing the problem.

While keeping residents well-informed about crime in the area is certainly a good first step, it shouldn’t be the extent of the administration’s safety strategy for the university apartments. The least UCLA can do is make sure the basic security measures in place are properly maintained and in working order. Regularly checking security infrastructure and fixing it in a timely manner when it is broken should be the standard, though.

“Going forward, we will increase the inspection frequency of building entrance doors,” UCLA Housing said in a statement.

The university added that in the future, it will check for unlocked entrances to complexes daily, and that the director of housing security will ensure inspections are documented and completed on a consistent basis.

Students often choose university apartments because of the higher standard of quality and convenience relative to the majority of private apartments in Westwood. They have a right to feel safe in their own homes, and the university has an obligation to make sure that’s the case.

Words alone won’t fix broken front doors. Keeping students safe involves action, not lip service.

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Opinion columnist

Busco is an Opinion columnist and a staff representative on the Daily Bruin Editorial Board.

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