UPD makes updates on A-State safety

By Caleb Hennington
On May 1, 2014

UPD has been working to make A-State safer for students since Arkansas State ranked 23rd in a Nov. 20, 2012, report of the most dangerous colleges in America by website Business Insider.

According to the report, FBI crime data from 2008 to 2011 was used to identify the most dangerous colleges, and Arkansas State, which had 13,415 students at the time of the report, chalked up an average of nine violent crimes per year and 183 property crime incidents per year.

The 2012 Campus Security Act Report for Arkansas State University, which shows crime data collected from 2010 to 2012, showed the number of violent crimes committed against A-State students decreased. However, other non-violent crimes, such as drug-related arrests, alcohol-related arrests and theft, have fluctuated from year to year. The campus crime statistics for 2013-2014 will be released to the public in October.

University Police Department Lt. Jarrod Long, who has served as an officer with A-State since 2003, confirmed he has seen the rate of crime on campus decrease in certain areas since the last crime reports.

“There are two different kinds of crime rates. There are the crimes against a victim and then there are general incidents committed, such as alcohol violations,” Long said. “Those (alcohol violations) have gone up, while general incidents against somebody else have seemed to decrease.”

Long attributed the increase in catching alcohol violations to more diligence by UPD officers in identifying these sorts of crimes. He also said that because of the decrease in violent crimes, officers are able to focus more on enforcing other laws.

Burglary is the most common violent crime that occurs on campus, with most reported incidents happening in residence halls.

In 2010, there were 17 reported counts of burglary on campus, with 13 of those occurring in residence halls. That number decreased to 12 on-campus burglaries in 2011 and nine on-campus burglaries in 2012.

Larceny, or theft, is the most common crime that occurs on campus, with 452 reported thefts on campus from 2010-2012. Theft is regarded as a non-violent crime, as opposed to robbery, which is included in the more violent section of the crime report.

Long explained that most people will call UPD saying they have been robbed, but more often than not this isn’t the case.

“Robbery is when somebody approaches another person and says ‘give me your money’ and then they take it and leave. Having your laptop stolen because you placed it on a desk and left it there is just simple theft,” Long explained.

Other violent crimes reported from 2010 to 2012 were motor vehicle thefts (down from three in 2010 to two in 2012), forcible sex offenses (down from four in 2010 to one in 2012), aggravated assault (up from two in 2010 to three in 2012), and one murder on campus in 2010.

The 2010 murder victim was 24-year-old Michael Gilmore, a native of West Helena, Ark., and a student at Arkansas State University. Gilmore was shot in the head in his Collegiate Park Apartment on April 16, 2010, and died the next morning after being airlifted to Regional One Health in Memphis.

Long said UPD has been investigating the murder for four years and has not yet made any arrests regarding the crime, though it is still open for investigation.

Although homicide and most crimes are unpredictable, Long said the university has provided things to try to make students feel safer and more equipped to report criminal activity if it occurs.

“They have added more cameras, fixed the gates in Collegiate Park and even added e-phones to that area. There used to not be any emergency phones in Collegiate Park. These things, along with more proactive patrols from us, seem to have made those crimes be very few and far between,” Long said.

Because of these crimes, and some of the history of criminal activity in the past, many students have a fear of walking across campus at night.

The lack of adequate lighting in some areas of campus, coupled with a fear of the unknown from many new students, might have something to do with this unsafe feeling. But what really causes students to shy away from walking across A-State at night?

Long said some students might fear walking across campus because they are being exposed to different people and environments at college than they’re used to experiencing.

“A lot of students come from small towns, and so this atmosphere is going to be very intimidating to some of them,” Long said. “A lot of students may not have had exposure to other ethnic groups and they may become intimidated by that, too.”

A-State’s proximity to a more historically crime-ridden part of town, namely Johnson Avenue and the areas north of Johnson, may also have something to do with insecurity felt by students, according to Long.

Zarah Tinkle, a junior interdisciplinary studies major of Little Rock, said on a scale from one to 10, she thinks a six or seven illustrates her feeling of safety on campus at night.

“It depends on how late it is. I mean, I’m not really worried about someone jumping me but I do want to make sure I can see the emergency poles just in case,” Tinkle said.

As far as making campus safer, Tinkle suggested more patrols.

“The area is pretty well lit but at night I hardly ever see cops or escorts roaming around. I think it would help to see someone on patrol every now and then,” she said.

According to Long, UPD has incorporated the use of student workers as patrolmen at night, added more emergency phones on campus, and conducted more proactive patrols of campus in the past few years.12

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