Violent crimes hit campus area


James Needham and Sandra Sepaniak assistant news editors

A student reported being sexually assaulted to the Office of Public Safety (OPS) Friday. Interim Director of OPS Tom Clark said the crime took place  Wednesday after 9 p.m. “on the steps that go from the Q-Lot area to the second floor of Tanner.”

According to a University press release, the victim said she was approached from behind by an unknown male who pulled her hooded sweatshirt over her head and sexually assaulted her. The assailant could not be identified since the hood obstructed the victim’s view of him. Clark said an investigation is underway.

“That pass is well-lit and very well-traveled at night,” he said. “If anyone has any information, we would urge them to call the Office of Public Safety.”

The most recent case comes two months after another reported sexual assault by a stranger. There have also been five other reported sexual assault incidents on campus this semester in which the victim knew the assailant. 

Another report that a Macomb resident was involved in a shooting on Murray Street late Saturday night has sparked a conversation about the area’s crime rate. In fact, students began asking tough questions on the University’s Facebook page. Assistant Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Darcie Shinberger responded.

“I think a lot of this generation, unfortunately, has school violence,” Shinberger said. “We want our students if they hear something, if they know something, if they see something that doesn’t look right, please report it to the Office of Public Safety and watch out for one another.”

Shinberger said she urges students to use the Student Patrol escort service, available through OPS. The service provides extra support to keep students from walking alone.

“I don’t know how widely used it is,” she said. “It’s something that we promote, that OPS certainly promotes. It’s on their safety website; it’s in the handbook; it’s in a variety of places. I really hope students take advantage of this service.”

But many Facebook users were asking about another student safety system — the WIU Emergency Alert System (WEAS). They wanted to know why they weren’t informed of the assault or shooting through the system. Shinberger said WEAS isn’t currently used for instances like these. Instead, it is reserved for a specific type of event.

“It’s for immediate ongoing threats,” Shinberger said. “A fire, a tornado, bomb threat, something where we need students to take action.” When pressed about the definition of an “immediate ongoing threat,” and whether frequent sexual assaults by strangers fit the bill, Shinberger expanded on the problem.

“That is something I would have to ask the administrators at the emergency alert system,” she said. “That would be a good question to pose.”

Students who want to use the Student Patrol Escort Services can do so by contacting OPS at 309/298-1949. The service is available Sunday to Thursday from 6 p.m – 2 a.m. and Friday to Saturday 7 p.m. – 3 a.m. Rape aggression defense courses (RAD) are available on campus each semester. The four class series for Fall 2013 has ended. Clark said that students should be aware of the emergency call boxes around campus and use them if they are in trouble. He also had another tip for student safety.

“Have the ops number programmed in your phone,” Clark said. “And call the police immediately if you’re a victim of a crime.”