University University Feature

‘Be alert’: On rising theft cases around DLSU

Herbel Santiago went to a McDonald’s branch near South Gate after returning to DLSU from an immersion activity. She currently serves as a facilitator for the National Service Training Program. She picked a four-seater middle aisle table, located right in front of a closed-circuit television camera. Upon seating, she placed her bag beside her and proceeded with her meal.

In a matter of minutes, her bag was gone.

Santiago’s story is but one of the many theft cases that happened recently along Taft Ave. Other victims, which are more often than not students and faculty from schools within the area, have expressed similar incidents in the past that still concerns them until today.

A post from DLSU Community Forum circulated last July 4 when a concerned member shared the story of Juan Saavedra, a student from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde who was also a victim of theft. According to the post, Saavedra was walking along Leon Guinto St. at around 9 pm when two men riding a motorcycle circled the block and waited for their victim. His phone was snatched minutes later.

In the same manner, Francis*, a student who was also a victim of theft, narrates how he was involved in a more violent incident. “While I was strolling past midnight, five people approached me and then another struck me from behind. I retaliated, but in the end my wallet got stolen. At the time, I had both my wallet and phone with me, so it’s a miracle that my phone wasn’t stolen. I was basically mugged by people who seem to be younger than 15 [years old],” he narrates.

Theft, robbery, riding-in-tandem

Cases of theft in the immediate vicinity of the University have been on the rise recently. Official reports from the Security Office show that seven incidents of theft, robbery, and those involving riding-in-tandem were reported in January 2019, which exceeded the five reported cases for all of 2018.

Among the incidents documented, riding-in-tandem cases have had the most noticeable increase, according to Security Office Director Anthony Lanzaderas. Vice Chancellor for Administration and Task Force Safe Schools (TFSS) member Dr. Arnel Uy adds that reports from other municipalities concur that riding-in-tandem is the “modus operandi choice of today.” 

Uy, however, reassures the Lasallian community that they should not be unnecessarily alarmed. “[Theft cases] will always be rising if the reports increase,” he points out. This is because, as Uy explains, the recorded cases were those received by DLSU security personnel who were seen as the first respondents during the time of the incident, instead of other law enforcement in the area. Uy also mentions that the Security Office receives “intel reports” from the personnel themselves, which they respond to on a case-to-case basis.

“Theft cases have always been there since time immemorial. I think some of them are actually triggered by certain events,” Uy argues. Apart from those occurrences, the University’s location makes it prone to have more theft cases as the school is adjacent to other busy areas of Manila, where there is a lot of foot traffic.

“Just across Taft Ave., along Pablo Ocampo St. is Pasay, and there are events in Pasay [that] make people go here. Those are the kinds of situations we are monitoring,” Uy elaborates.

Community-based safety

Aside from acting as first respondents and obtaining intel reports, DLSU has been spearheading efforts to ensure safety around the campus. DLSU is currently a member of the TFSS, a group who, together with De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College, have jointly provided 21 civilian spotters around the vicinity of the three schools. Taft Ave. now also has constant police visibility, Lanzaderas adds.

The University Safety Office (USO), headed by Director Engr. Ronald Dabu, closely coordinates with the Manila Police District and surrounding barangays to regularly discuss incidents happening in the vicinity. Dabu shares that the TFSS has recently established a program to increase security and safety within the barangays by regularly training respective barangay tanods.

Further, Uy discloses that TFSS has started coordinating with condominium administrators in the area regarding their tenants’ safety, especially since most of their residents are students.

“They are getting bigger, more populated. [We can have] problems in terms of evacuation and drills. What if the big one (earthquake) [is] coming? We started discussing [this] with them,” Uy expounds.

In the eyes of the victims

Vigilance on the part of the victim is needed, Santiago says, relaying that she took further action after the incident. “I approached the NSTP & Formation Office (NFO), since this is the office that I’m working for. The NFO office was able to help me with my immediate financial and emotional needs,” she adds.

Francis, meanwhile, says that he approached the Security Office for assistance, who in turn gave him footage from the incident.

When asked if they still felt safe inside and outside the campus, both state that they do feel safe within University premises, but stress that guards should be more visible beyond the gates.

“The current state of security in campus is great as there is no feeling of threat within the campus as well as outside the campus during the day. For the sake of those who traverse around the campus area at night—as apparently the immediate sidewalk front of DLSU is still within campus grounds—there should be nighttime guards stationed,” Francis asserts.

A call for alertness

Lanzaderas says that their office has initiated a “proactive response” by encouraging students to be vigilant, especially when they are outside the campus. Uy calls students to apply the principle of “HaHu”, which means “hustle up, anticipate, heads up”, reminding them to always be alert and be prepared for anything that may happen.

“Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Even though there are systems that aim to protect, one still needs to be vigilant,” Santiago reminds students.

In case an incident happens, Uy advises students to immediately report it to the Security Office. Aside from this, he instructs students to “be alert, do practical things, because [we can be] easy prey for a lot of unscrupulous people out there.”

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

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