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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Non-violent crime up, public safety says

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: Front Page

<i>PHOTO BY Max Shay /The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Max Shay /The Hoot

The number of non-violent crimes on campus has skyrocketed this year, according to Brandeis Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan.

“Crime spiked seriously from last year to this one,” Callahan said. “In the past 35 years, this is the highest I have ever seen it.”

Campus crime incidents largely fall under one of two categories: crimes that violate school policy, and crimes that violate property.

The increases in crimes that violate school policy have had two main contributors. The first is a 150 percent increase in drug and alcohol abuses in the past year.

The second is fire safety violations. This increase comes mostly from a fire drill last semester where over 15 violations, mostly covered smoke detectors, were discovered in one night.

This incident has raised awareness for fire safety concerns and sparked spontaneous room checks by the department of Residence Life. The result has been a more than 250 percent increase in fire safety violations. Though these are separate issues, Callahan sees them as related.

“I think that these are highly connected,” Callahan said. “Most of these drug offenses are in [students’] rooms, and covering a fire alarm makes smoking a lot easier.”

He added that many of the drug related offenses were committed by underclassmen who were first-time offenders.

Callahan speculated that the increase in drug use on campus could be due to additional stress on campus from the financial crisis.

“Students at this university work very hard. You have to focus on a lot of things at once. You get a lot of pressures, and, especially when you are young, it can be hard to resist,” he said.

Representatives at Brandeis’ Psychological Counseling Center, however, said they have not seen an increase in students looking for help dealing with stress related issues, saying that the center has been “busy as usual.”

Additionally, local universities, such as Tufts and Harvard have experienced drops in crime over the past couple of years despite facing similar hardships themselves.

The number of thefts at Brandeis, on the other hand, has tripled, jumping from 8 to 24.

“Theft has increased tremendously,” claims Callahan, “from small crimes like a student losing their wallet at the gym, to a student whose $5,000 lap top was stolen.”

Director of Student Development and Conduct Erika Lamarre attributes this increase in crime in part to an increased staff awareness. Additionally, Lamarre believes that current staff members understand how to interpret student behavior better than in past years, and therefore can catch students in the act.

“Much of the theft in the last year has come from the new P.O.D. store,” Lamarre said, “The store is new and has more food to offer. This may lead more students to steal. Staff has become more aware of this trend.”

Another tool helping P.O.D. store staff catch students stealing is the new security system, which enable managers to video record the store, review tape and catch students stealing after it happens.

There has not been any increase in violent activities, which have remained steady for the past couple of years.

Still, Callahan does not believe that the non-violent crime wave will end anytime soon.

“The trend will probably continue,” he said. “However, we are working hard to try and assist students in any way we can.”