By Lauren Toole
Over the weekend, three separate incidents of vandalism occurred, contributing to an upward trend in crime and theft that has plagued the campus since the beginning of the year.
Campus Safety apprehended individuals attempting to break into Gund Commons on Saturday night. In addition, a lawn in the New Apartments area was toilet-papered and the front door was ripped off of Taft Cottage B. The cost to replace the mahogany door will total around $4,000.
According to Greg Widener, superintendent of buildings and grounds, the temporary door that is currently fitted on the Taft cost $950 to install, and it will need to be replaced by a weather-resistant door.
This year we really just dont know whats going on, Bob Hooper, director of Campus Safety, said. Were on track to have more numbers [of reported theft and vandalism] this year.
In the 2010-2011 academic year, there were 28 reported cases of vandalism. Last year, there were 52. As of Friday, Nov. 9, there have been 26 incidents recorded for the 2012-2013 year.
We just have no idea this year why things are like this, Hooper said. It is very frustrating for [Safety], and I think the students are starting to get tired of the vandalism. As long as we work together Im positive we can either completely knock it out or at least make a difference.
Hooper said most thefts that have occurred at Kenyon were the results of students not taking the time to properly secure their belongings.
[Students] are leaving their book bags with their computers and everything in it, and theyll be gone for hours because theyll go leave and do something else, Hooper said. Unfortunately, were very open, which creates a lot of chances for somebody just to come in in a few seconds.
Most thefts have been concentrated on South Quad, according to Hooper, although several have come from other areas.
weekend we had a report in Mather [Residence Hall] and Caples [Residence Hall], and again people were leaving their doors open and unlocked, he said.
Safety believes the cases of reported theft at Peirce Hall and in some of the instances at the Kenyon Athletic Center were part of an outside theft ring operating in Knox County.
The Sheriffs Department made a few arrests, and those thefts, at least in those two areas, took a pretty significant nose-dive, Hooper said. What were seeing in the residence halls, because everybody has access to every residence hall, were assuming thats more student than anybody from outside.
Reports of suspicious persons on campus have also been higher than in years past. This semester, Safety has issued three trespass letters against individuals. If those persons return to campus, they will be arrested.
According to Hooper, theft and vandalism have been recurring problems at most of the Five Colleges of Ohio schools this year, and many are at a loss to explain this years dramatic increase. Everybodys struggling with it, Hooper said.
At Denison University, Vice President for Student Development Laurel Kennedy, Ph.D. said that while theft has not been a problem at Denison this year, vandalism increased at the beginning of the semester.
We have seen a fair bit of vandalism, especially at the early part of the year, she said. It causes some alarm. One of the differences between this year and what we normally see is that weve seen more of it on the academic quad than we normally do. It was unusual to see it at our academic area.
Kennedy said the increase in vandalism mirrored escalating alcohol use. It seemed unusually high for us at the beginning of the year, she said. The University believes the two are related.
Were seeing a lot of this through the lens of alcohol use, Kennedy said. Theres the appearance that alcohol use was beginning to be more excessive than we expected it to be.
Although Denison has taken measures to respond to these concerns, such as locking residence halls for student-only access between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., Kennedy said that vandalism has been a puzzling phenomenon this year. Were really trying to understand it better, she said.
According to Hooper, Hiram College has also had higher numbers of suspicious individuals. Hiram has been having some issues, but most schools are about the same numbers, Hooper said. Were a little higher than what we normally are.
Larry Coonfare Jr., lead officer of campus safety at Hiram, attributed the Colleges rise in suspicious persons reports to a bomb threat the institution received on Friday, Sept. 14. Ever since then, our campus community has been more alert, so weve gotten calls about more things, Coonfare said. But in the wake of a big thing like that, its expected to get more calls.
At Kenyon the increase has been less explainable. We seem this year to just attract a lot of just odd people who try to blend in and obviously arent, Hooper said.
Although theft and vandalism tends to occur in cycles, with some years reporting higher numbers than others, Hooper said that in his 20-plus years as a Campus Safety officer at the College, this is one of the worst years hes seen.