By Melissa Mitchell Ah, spring. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and everyone is getting out once again to enjoy the kinder, gentler weather. What's wrong with this picture? On the surface, nothing. But, unfortunately, when the weather gets better, so do the odds of becoming a victim of crime. "The opportunity for crime increases because more people are out and about," according to Capt. Krystal Fitzpatrick, the UI's acting director of public safety. Fitzpatrick noted that in the campus area, certain types of crime - such as robbery, assault and battery - occur more frequently in May and September, key times of transition for the campus population. With all that moving about and getting around, people naturally tend to lower their guard against crime. These also are prime times for the criminally inclined to be out doing their thing, too. "People who want to commit crime look for the path of least resistance," she added. "If you're a burglar, you want to go in when someone is least likely to notice you. If you're looking to commit a crime against a person, the person walking alone is the best target." Of 100 reported incidents of robbery and assault and battery that occurred in the campus area since Sept. 1, 1994, the majority involved UI students as victims. The majority of incidents occurred in an area bounded by Neil and Race streets to the west and east, and University and Kirby streets to the north and south. Fitzpatrick noted that even though most of these incidents involved students and took place in residential or commercial areas, that doesn't mean that faculty and staff members aren't vulnerable to criminal activity on campus. "Faculty and staff tend to be victims of theft - losing wallets, purses, books and personal property," Fitzpatrick said. "The same people who, at home, put valuables in a safe place, often leave them unattended at work. People need to transfer that awareness that they have at home to the workplace." Fitzpatrick added that UI employees could benefit from creating "neighborhood watch" areas in the workplace. At the very least, she said, "learn who your neighbors are, communicate with them, and learn to watch out for each other." And even though theft may be the most common crime that affects faculty and staff members on campus, Fitzpatrick said everyone should be aware of basic personal safety tips and should adopt them as standard operating procedures. Among those that apply to UI employees in the workplace, or in transit to and from work: * Do not walk alone at night. If you do not have a walking partner, take advantage of the Campus Assistance program that provides safe transport to and from campus buildings and parking areas. Phone 244-HELP (4357) * Plan and travel a route that is well-lighted and populated. * Pay attention to your surroundings. If you feel that you are being followed or are in danger, go to a well-populated area and find help. Fitzpatrick added that if you do walk alone at night, "look at people when they come up on you" to indicate a sense of awareness to your surroundings. And, she said, cross the street if someone is approaching and you feel uncomfortable. "Take some kind of action." Faculty and staff members also should not be timid about reporting suspicious activities to the police. "We look to the population that works here to be our eyes and ears," Fitzpatrick said, adding that campus police are never "bothered" by calls alerting them to potential problems, however trivial they may seem. "Take that word 'bother' out of the thought process," Fitzpatrick said. "We're here to provide a service and to provide a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff. If you have a gut feeling that something isn't right, go with that gut feeling and call the police." UI police typically respond to a call for assistance within 3 to 5 minutes, "so if people call, we're very close," Fitzpatrick said. The phone numbers for emergencies is 9-911 and for nonemergencies, 333-1216.