By Marissa Alfano
College campuses are commonly thought to be dangerous epicenters of crime on weekend nights. With students staying out until the early morning hours in compromised states of mind and walking home alone, there is a sort of fear that anything can happen.
Despite this assumption, Ohio Wesleyan University stands out as a relatively safe environment on Friday and Saturday nights.
An examination of the Delaware County Emergency Communications incident reports involving OWU revealed that very few incidences occur.
Reports for nine weekend days during the month of September 2012 were analyzed, and the incident reports filed involved only minor events. From the hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., OWU’s Department of Public Safety received 49 calls on Friday nights and 88 calls on Saturday nights, making Saturday the more active night for students to make calls to Public Safety.
Breaking these reports down reveals a small number of calls to Public Safety each night.
-Sept. 7 had 15 calls
-Sept. 14 had 13 calls
-Sept 21 had 13 calls
-Sept. 28 had eight calls
Larger call numbers were produced on Saturday nights.
-Sept. 1 had 13 calls
-Sept. 8 had 13 calls
-Sept. 15 had 16 calls
-Sept. 22 had 25 calls
-Sept. 29 had 21 calls
Although there are five Saturdays in September and four Fridays, Saturday nights produced comparatively more calls to PS than Friday nights for each weekend.
While Public Safety receives these calls, only those that might result in criminal charges are transferred to the Delaware Police Department (DPD). This means only 13 of these calls were transferred to DPD. There were six calls transferred on Fridays and seven on Saturdays. Although more calls were made to PS on Saturday nights, there was no significant difference in the number of calls requiring services from DPD. The 13 DPD reports show the misdemeanors for the night, each involving an issue that required the police department and not just PS to be involved. Issues involving theft, fire, possible marijuana use and other such legal issues all involve DPD.
A breakdown of each of the individual 13 calls shows what types of issues are dealt with on weekend nights at Ohio Wesleyan. Each report includes the incident that needed DPD attention along with the other PS issues that occurred on the same night. They are as follows:
At 10 p.m. on Sept. 7, a call was made regarding screaming students and fireworks coming from the Citizens of the World (COW) House’s porch. Officials were sent to the scene, talked with students and deemed the issue resolved. That was a Friday night.
At 11:43 p.m. on Sept. 8, the laundry room window in the basement of Bashford Hall was reported for vandalism and noted by PS.
At 1:23 a.m., the Smith East elevator broke and Public Safety investigated the complaint and arranged for the elevator to be fixed. At 2:30 a.m. the fire department was sent on a non-emergency status call to Sigma Chi Fraternity in response to a fire alarm, concluding one of the most eventful September Saturday nights on campus.
At 11:10 p.m. on Sept. 14, marijuana was smelled in Welch Hall and reported to DPD, but no action was taken.
At 11:14 p.m., a routine check of Beeghly Library was performed and no problems were found.
From 11: 57 p.m. to 12:06 a.m., two males walked into an Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity party and engaged in a verbal fight. One student left and publically urinated on an ice machine before running off. PS worked with the fraternity to resolve the fight and Friday night was brought to a close, while Sept. 15, Saturday night, resulted in no calls at all.
At 2:10 a.m. on Sept. 21, a Friday night, a suspicious subject was reported standing by the bike racks near Bashford Hall. The report was documented.
At 2:52 a.m., a call was made from Smith East requesting a ride to 23 Williams.
At 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 22, officials responded to a call regarding a robbery from the napkin dispenser in Hamilton Williams Campus Center.
At 9:43 p.m., a complaint was submitted that all the lights were out in the Stuyvesant Hall parking lot and Buildings and Grounds was notified of the situation so it could be fixed. After these Friday night activities, Sept. 28, a Saturday, received no calls.
At 1:12 a.m. on Sept. 29, a possible marijuana complaint was called in from Welch Hall and was reportedly resolved by DPD.
For the entire month of September, Friday and Saturday nights did not result in many emergency calls to DPD, and the calls that did result were from non-emergency fire alarm issues, fireworks and theft from a napkin dispenser.
The few incidents that did occur were minor in nature; yet, students still say they do not feel safe on campus. Junior Haley Leber said she feels safe at OWU during the daylight hours, but not as much once it gets dark.
“I stay late at the library every night and I used to walk, but not anymore,” Leber said. “I started driving my car instead because I don’t feel safe. I live in 4 Williams and I am not comfortable in the parking lot. There is one light, but it is still really dark at 1 a.m. and no one is around; it’s kind of freaky. I think campus overall is fairly well lit, but I do think there are areas that could use more lights for safety.”
OWU has tried to address this fear of walking home alone in the dark with the SAFEwalk program, which is designed to help ensure students stay safe by having a walking buddy available at night. SAFEwalk is offered every night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and is located in the main entrance to the library, next to the Library Café and in front of Thompson Store. Students can be found at the SAFEwalk desk, willing to escort anyone home who asks.
Leber said she likes the idea of SAFEwalk, but thinks it would be more beneficial if the workers asked her if she wanted to be walked home because she does not feel comfortable approaching them and asking.
This, however, does not seem to be stopping other students from utilizing SAFEwalk, according to sophomore Shakira Braxton and senior Tim Solwik, SAFEwalk employees.
Braxton said during the first semester, they averaged six or more requests for SAFEwalks per shift.
Although there are no qualifications to be a SAFEwalk employee, both said they feel able to do the job.
“Campus is safe all the time,” Solwik said. “People are safest if they travel in groups and aren’t fiddling around with iPods or other distracting devices. If they don’t feel safe, they should call SAFEwalk. We love getting asked to walk people home. It’s our job. Otherwise, we just sit here.”
In addition to walking people home, Braxton and Solwick patrol campus and check doors to see if the academic buildings are locked for the night. They said they have never come across a frightening emergency while on a weekend shift.
According to Solwik, there have been less people in the library this semester, so there have been less SAFEwalks requested than earlier in the year. He said people usually ask for a SAFEwalk while they are walking out of the library.
“We get way more requests on week days than weekend nights,” Solwik said. “Usually people don’t go back home until 3 a.m. on weekends, so if it’s after 1 a.m., they just call Public Safety.”
An examination of the September weekends involving the 18-years and older Clancey’s Pub and the 21-years and older Backstretch Bar, also found the areas surrounding campus party life to be relatively uneventful on the weekend nights.
An analysis showed only eight Computer Aided Dispatch Reports were processed from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. in connection with the only two bars within walking distance of Ohio Wesleyan’s campus. The only incident produced on a Friday night was also the only incident involving the Backstretch Bar. The other seven occurred at Clancey’s Pub on Saturday nights.
A breakdown of these calls reveals the issues that are dealt with during the time many students are celebrating their weekend near the bar. They are as follows:
At 1:40 a.m. on Sept. 9, a man called from Clancey’s Pub regarding an issue in which the mother of his children almost assaulted him. At 2 a.m. DPD sent an officer for a routine, follow-up bar check. This was an issue involving a non-OWU person, or as students would say, “a townie”.
At 11: 45 p.m. on Sept 15, a suspicious woman resisted custody at Clancy’s Pub. At 1:50 a.m. a routine bar check was performed. This again did not involve an OWU student.
At 1:13 a.m. on Sept. 16, the owner of Clancey’s Pub forced a customer to leave and would not let him retrieve his credit card inside. The issue was resolved.
At 12:20 a.m. on Sept. 21, a customer refused to pay at the Backstretch Bar and was tracked walking down South Sandusky Street.
At 1:15 a.m. on Sept. 23, Clancey’s Pub reported taking a fake ID from an underage male. The police figured out that it was his real ID and the issue was resolved.
At 12:16 a.m. on Sept. 30, a suspicious person was reported at Clancey’s Pub and appropriately investigated.
For all of the weekends in the month, these were the only incidents reported. Some of them involved “townies” or people otherwise not affiliated with Ohio Wesleyan, while others involved nonthreatening issues, such as the need for customers to pay the bartender before leaving. Although these incidents reveal a relatively safe atmosphere, the areas surrounding the two bars are considered by many students to be the most dangerous.
Clancey’s Pub is located at 40 South Sandusky Street and the Backstretch Bar is located at 14 South Sandusky Street. Most students take the adjacent street, Spring Street, to and from the bars.
Despite the lack of calls of incidences involving the two bars, Leber said she would never walk down Spring Street alone during any night of the week and especially not on the way home from the bar on the weekend.
“During the daylight hours it’s okay because people are driving and the road is active,” she said. “There are more people around for witnesses.”
Junior Maggie Medearis said she thinks it makes sense that there were more reports for Saturday nights because she feels that there are more people out and more chances for something dangerous to happen near the bars.
“There are more Greek social events and campus is more active on Saturdays,” Medearis said. “I feel like campus is dead on Friday. It might vary from school to school, but that’s how it is here. On the occasional times I go to the bar, it is more packed and, as a girl, I think there are more drunk, handsy and forward guys out on Saturday nights.”
Junior Shenyada Hutchinson said she feels similarly.
“On Fridays, people try to relax,” she said. “Some have sporting games on Saturdays and have to stay in. Usually sports teams’ host parties on Saturday nights after their games, so more people go out because of this.”
Hutchinson said she does not feel safe walking back from the bar at night, even though very few incidents are reported to occur.
“There are drunk people walking around and anything can happen,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable by myself. I feel safest on campus rather than on Spring Street walking home from the bar. But even on campus I am still always checking over my shoulder and anticipating the worst. I try to talk on my phone if I’m by myself. When I walk with other people, though, I have no fear.”
Sophomore Ashkan Ekhtera said he sees more drunk women crying and more “townies” out in Delaware on Saturdays than Fridays. He thinks it is safer to walk down campus on the JAYwalk than on Spring Street and recommends people don’t wear headphones so they can be alert.
“I would watch for fights outside the bar and just be careful to walk with friends,” he said.
Public Safety has recognized that students do not always feel safe on campus and has developed a system of OWU Alerts, through which Public Safety can communicate with the campus in case of emergency situations. Students can sign up through OWU’s website to receive text, voice and e-mail messages of OWU Alerts.
Sergeant Chris Mickens of Public Safety said there are recommendations that have been sent out with some of the OWU Alerts about how students can keep themselves safe, even on a relatively safe campus like OWU.
“The alerts include information that the university feels should be sent to the campus community following safety and security issues or as general safety tips,” Mickens said.
These tips include walking with others, not letting strangers “piggyback” into buildings and reporting all concerns immediately. It is recommended that students carry a cell phone at all times with the phone pre-programmed to call Public Safety at 740-368-2222 and to recognize an incoming call from 740-368-3411 as an urgent OWU Alert.
If students feel threatened, they should get to a safe place as quickly as possible and call for help once out of immediate danger. Safeguarding the OWU ID card can also prevent strangers from entering campus buildings and causing harm. Additionally, valuables should not be left unprotected and doors and windows should be kept locked.
Students can consider personal safety training in an OWU activity course. Public Safety also is willing to speak to groups of five or more students who want more information about personal safety. Free, confidential student counseling services are available on campus by calling (740) 368-3145.
According to Public Safety, students should not take the law into their own hands, but should feel empowered to call Public Safety if they feel threatened or see someone else who needs help.
Public Safety assures students they are working hard to keep students safe and to make them feel comfortable both on campus and in the surrounding areas.
Incident reports involving PS and DPD for OWU’s campus, Clancey’s Pub and the Backstretch Bar have shown that areas students most frequently use are relatively safe; yet, PS continues to increase programs for campus safety. In the eyes of those who are responsible for students, even one minor incident is too many. Students are constantly being informed of safety tips and any potential suspicious reports, which help them to be aware and this awareness contributes to weekend safety.
Although campus is safe, some students still feel uncomfortable walking home on weekend nights. As a result, even though data reveals evidence of a safe campus and surrounding area, PS is always striving towards the goal of an incident-free weekend.