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Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Photo of UW Police Chief John VinsonOn behalf of the men and women of the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD), I want to welcome you back from winter break or, for those who are new, welcome you to the University of Washington!

This letter is the first of what I intend to be annual letters sent to promote safety and security on campus.  Though some of this message is focused specifically on Seattle, it also includes safety tips that are relevant to the entire UW community.  Both UW Bothell and UW Tacoma have Web sites that offer additional safety information that is specific to those campuses.

While Seattle is a relatively safe city, we do live in an urban environment and, as such, should do what we can to protect ourselves and those around us from those who would commit crimes.  Currently, there are a few crime trends and prevention tips I would like to bring to your attention.


In the recent past, two armed robberies occurred on campus, one in November and another in December. In both cases, the victims were excellent witnesses, providing good descriptions to our sketch artist.  As a result, UWPD detectives, in collaboration with the Seattle Police Department, identified and arrested both suspects.

Protect yourself when walking in the District at night: wait until you arrive at your destination before using your hand-held cell phone. A phone presents an easy target for thieves to steal right out of your hands.

If you are a victim of a crime, try to be a good witness and take note of the suspect’s age, height, weight, clothing, skin tone, hair and other physical descriptors.  Also, observe the suspect’s direction of travel. Call police as soon as possible by dialing 911 — the faster we can respond, the more likely we are to catch the suspect.

Sex Offenses:

While the reporting of sex offenses is rare on campus, we believe that it is an underreported crime.  We want you to be safe and to know what resources are available.

If you are a victim of sexual assault:

  • You can call the UWPD at 911 to report an assault;
  • You can call UWPD non emergency line 685-UWPD (8973), at any time of day or night to make a complaint privately;
  • The Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Information Service (SARIS) is available to all current students to listen, support and assist you in learning about resources and reporting options if you do not wish to make a formal police report.

See the UWPD Web page for additional resources for staff, faculty and students.

As you may know, sex offenders must register with the county. You can find information regarding sex offenders living in your area at the King County Sherriff’s Web page or other county sheriff web pages if you reside in Pierce, Snohomish, or Thurston counties.

Bike Theft:

Bike theft is one of the most common crimes on campus. An effective way to help UWPD increase your chances of recovering a stolen bike is to ensure you register your bike via our online form.  The national average for bike recovery is 2-5 percent; the UWPD recovered one out of every six stolen bikes in 2011.

The majority of bikes stolen on the campus are locked incorrectly or with a cable type lock.  Bikes locked correctly, through the frame and both wheels, with hardened U-locks are rarely stolen.  If you see someone suspicious at the bike racks, call 911. Suspicious activity may include excessive loitering, fiddling with bike locks or using tools on a bike or a bike lock. You do not need to wait until a crime occurs to call us. Patrol Officers will respond and determine if the person has a legitimate reason for being there.


You may have come back from the holidays with new laptops, cell phones or MP3 players. These are tempting items for thieves, especially when left unattended on a library table or in an unlocked office. Protect yourself by registering your electronics and your bicycles with the UWPD. Remember, always take your items with you or secure them, even if you will be gone only for a few minutes.

The UWPD is committed to your safety. As members of the university community, you are our most valuable resource in preventing and deterring crime by acting as our eyes and ears. If you see something suspicious or concerning, don’t hesitate to call 911.

I hope you have found the information in this letter helpful as you continue to work, study and live here at the University of Washington. To keep up on public safety news, trends, and safety tips please sign up for UW Alert, check out our Web page and like us on Facebook!


John Vinson, Chief of Police