Macomb maintains secure campus

Steven Barnum , Assistant News Editor

The crime report statistics at Western Illinois University show that the office of public safety is keeping students safe.

Western’s office of public safety has released numbers from 2015, 2016 and 2017 that highlight major categories in crime. The categories include dating or domestic violence, aggravated assault, burglary, forcible sex offenses and judicial referrals and arrests for liquor and drug laws.

As seen in the Western Security Report, there are 48 emergency call boxes scattered across the Macomb campus. When individuals feel they are in danger, they are encouraged to activate one of the boxes, which will trigger a flashing blue light and alert safety officers to the location. The emergency call box system has been in place since 1989, and the number of lights has doubled since then. Darcie Shinberger, the Director of University Relations, believes that the university maintains a safe campus thanks to the patrol from police officers and students.

“We have the officers, but we also have student patrol who are on foot every evening,” Shinberger said. “Because our campus is smaller, their response time is very swift.”

Several areas of crime are down from just three years ago. For example, 2015 had as many burglaries as the last two years combined. Reports of aggravated assaults are also on the decline, along with domestic and dating-related violence. Shinberger says that OPS are constantly raising awareness through reminders.

“We are always telling students to lock their doors and not to leave high-dollar items in plain sight.” Shinberger said. “Burglaries are often a crime of opportunity. Don’t give someone the opportunity.”

OPS also offers self defense classes and assistance to those with car trouble, like a flat tire or locking themselves out of their car. “Our office does a really good job in educating the community how to protect themselves and their possessions,” Shinberger said.

As for an increase in drug law arrests and judicial referrals, Shinberger believes there could be several explanations. Among her speculation, she floated the idea that students new to Western might think they can get away with drug use or possession. With this mindset, students fail to sneak their activity passed campus police and residence hall staff, who may be drawn to the smell of drugs like marijuana. Another possibility is that patrol members have been more efficient at locating where students consume drugs on campus. Specifically, there were 150 drug law referrals in 2015, 191 in 2016, and 219 in 2017.

On the flip side, referrals and arrests for liquor laws have decreased since 2015. The explanation for the downward trend is lacking, though Shinberger suggests that students are more aware of the consequences. There have been 1,038 arrests and referrals combined for liquor laws since 2015, and over 71 percent of them have taken place on campus property.

Looking at other areas, reports of forcible sex offenses have been steady, with an average of 10 in each of the last three years. Forcible sex offenses range from groping to rape. Zero robberies or hate crimes have been reported in the last three years, and there has only been one stolen vehicle during that same time span. Possessions of weapons and stalking have not been significant issues at Western.

If students are not in immediate danger, they could call OPS at 309-298-1949 to file a report. “Western’s office of public safety does a fantastic job. They work very had to make sure they provide a secure campus for everyone,” Shinberger said. “We’ve always had a lot of control on campus.”