Public Safety: campus is safe despite recent incidents

Christine Lee, News Editor

Despite the occurrence of three crime incidents on and near camps within three weeks of one another, Public Safety and Student Affairs staff insist the Wilkes campus is perfectly safe. A festive mindset by students at the beginning of the year and an increase in students moving into off-campus neighborhoods farther from campus are cited as reasons for these types of crime occurring so early in the year.

An increase in students moving further from campus and an upbeat mind set are part of the reasons given for a rash of crimes that occurred close together.

Three weeks after five students were assaulted near Academy and South River streets and a male student had his laptop stolen on a porch at 363 S. Franklin St., a female student was walking alone near the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center around 2 a.m. when a silver car approached her. A man in the car wearing what is described as a dark hoodie asked her if she wanted a ride. The student declined the invitation and the man got out of the car and grabbed her thigh. It was reported the student was able to get away and ran back to her residence hall.

Despite the frequency of which crime incidents occurred on campus in the first part of the school year, Public Safety says there is no increase in the amount of crime on and near campus and the campus is safe for students.

Public Safety manager Rebo said it only seems like the crime rate on and around campus has increased because the three incidents occurred so close in time.

“Things like that happen but when they happen together it seems like a lot,” Rebo said.

Rebo said the three incidents that occurred so closely to each other occur every semester.

According to last year’s Campus Crime Report, there were five instances of burglary on campus, 13 arrests made for liquor law violations and one arrest for drug-related violations.

Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Adams thinks part of what contributed to crimes that occurred is there being a frenzy of activity and good spirits at the beginning of the year.

“I think at the beginning of the school there’s always a lot of activity in terms of people being on the streets at all hours; the weather doesn’t inhibit that at all, it’s warm and people tend to, upon return to campus, be in a little bit more of a celebratory spirit and, as a result, tend to be traveling about,” Adams said.

Adams added that the three incidents occurred well after dark and in places where people weren’t in a group and somewhat isolated, which created some vulnerabilities for them.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs Barbara King said part of the reason for crimes occurring to students off-campus is they are moving further from campus.

“Part of the issue is we have so many students off-campus now they’re moving further and further into the neighborhood,” King said. “They’re moving further into neighborhoods that haven’t been desirable over the years but we have people moving down further and further all the time.”

Rebo said Public Safety has increased patrols as far down as 339 S. River St. and the university has hired off-duty Wilkes-Barre police officers to patrol the area around campus on Thurs., Fri. and Sat. nights from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Although Public Safety has no jurisdiction off-campus but they have courtesy calls, which means if a student calls from off-campus, they will respond to them.

Public Safety Supervisor Phil Miller said the safe escort service and safe rides available are under-utilized every year and Public Safety always has these options available.

“It’s unfortunate cause our officers are always available,” Miller said.

King said students residing off-campus are not required to report crime in their area but are encouraged to report it. The police rely on Public Safety to report incidents that occur to students residing off-campus.

“The only way the police will ever get a handle is if neighbors living there report it,” King said. “We would certainly hope that if there are major things going on they would report to Public Safety and the Wilkes-Barre police.”

Wilkes president Patrick Leahy issued the following statement regarding the recent crimes on and around campus:

“Nothing is more important to me than the safety and well-being of our students, both on and off campus. I want to assure students and their parents that, although we are an urban university, we have a safe campus.”

“While I am confident that the incidents that occurred at the start of the semester do not constitute a continuing problem, these incidents have provided us with an opportunity to evaluate safety practices. We acted quickly to employ a second off-duty Wilkes-Barre police officer to help to increase patrols in our adjacent neighborhoods.”

“I’ve made a personal commitment to monitor the situation and well address any concerns quickly. I ask students, faculty and staff to be our partners in promoting a safe campus. I urge you to use the escort service provided by Public Safety and, when off campus, take advantage of the Safe Rides program that offers free taxi rides.  Together we can keep Wilkes safe for all of us.”

Dean of Students Mark Allen there are times when students can take precautions to minimize being a victim of crimes and the university strives to educate students how to be safe and making sure students are safe.

“We have to strive to educate our students and to put forth the resources to help ensure their safety,” Allen said. “I believe overall the campus is a safe environment.”

Adams believes that good things can come out of these incidents.

“You hope that you can find something positive and that’s that everybody else learns from this,” Adams said. “All of us are able to adopt behaviors that hopefully diminish the likelihood that something like this would happen and I hope we can be proactive in encouraging those kinds of behaviors.”