Ripon College administration suggests community policing to create better safety on campus in light of recent thefts and vandalism.
By: Hannah Tetzlaff
With quiet hour regulations in place in the dorms, weekday nights tend to be very quiet at Ripon College. But on Monday, Sept. 18, the girls on the fourth floor of Johnson were disturbed at about 1-2 a.m. in the morning by loud noises, and when they ventured outside their doors, they discovered that some of their property was vandalized.
Director of Residence Life Mark Nicklaus is currently investigating the event. “I got a report from a couple of the ADPi sorority sisters that there were some loud noises, and what heard like popping noises going on; they weren’t sure what that was,” he said. “It was later discovered that someone popped the balloons outside the door and that people wrote some comments on some calendars regarding some events going on with the sororities. People were being loud and knocking on some doors, and they were just being rather inconsiderate at 1:30 a.m.”
Nicklaus noted that there were possibly three individuals involved based on eyewitness reports.
“We talked with a couple of the sisters that had some concerns that heard the noise, and I met with the one sister who talked with one of the individuals who was making the noise. The one sister came out of the room and said ‘hey, knock this off,’ and they saw this individual. She couldn’t identify who he was, so we asked some questions like what are identifying characteristics of the individual such as weight, height, race and what were they wearing.”
Based on the response of the eyewitness, one of the individuals was a white male, about 5’11” with a hat on. The other two were not spotted by the witness, but she had heard some running down the hall. Other eyewitness reports suggest that at least two of the males are from the Quad.
He noted that though they were not sure on how the three males entered the dorm, there were a few possibilities. “It appears that they either A) had a friend who lived in Johnson or B) they piggybacked or followed someone else into the building because I ran the card-swipe and nobody that does not live in Johnson did not get in, or they went in early in the day and just stayed there all night. Those are the only possibilities,” he said.
At this time, there has been no new information concerning the three possible suspects; however, Nicklaus said that the R.A.’s and hall directors are on alert, listening for any new information.
According to Nicklaus, there are no plans to revamp security such as replacing the locks on the doors, and while nothing major was damaged and no one was hurt by the incident, the situation is a reminder that sometimes crimes, big and small, can occur even on the Ripon College campus.
In the past few years, other crimes occurred at Ripon College, for an example, earlier this semester, a Red Trek bike was stolen. Less than two years ago, two kids from off campus robbed dorm rooms in Scott Hall during a fire-alarm and according to some students, there were some car break-ins a few years back as well.
Though several crimes have occurred on the Ripon College campus, none of them seem to be related and are not a cause for alarm.
“At this point, we have not seen a pattern or directed malicious intent at specific people or group. In my time here, the incidents are pretty isolated,” Nicklaus said. “Typically when something does get taken, it is a ‘crime of convenience’. Extremely rarely does an actual break in, like busting a window or breaking through a door occur. Most commonly things are taken when not watched or locked and no one is around. We monitor each of these incidents, and if we do feel that the College needs to be aware of something, we will send out an alert.”
Biff Floodstrand (Class of 2018) experienced the Scott Hall fire-alarm robberies when she was a sophomore, and though a few hundred dollars were stolen from her, she feels her property is normally safe on campus.
“Personally, I feel mainly secure on campus with my belongings, but I’m always one to lock my door and the only time I will ever leave anything of value without someone watching it is when I’m going to the Commons and they don’t allow backpacks in,” Floodstrand said. “I think we all want to believe that other people wouldn’t steal anything from us because at Ripon we are such a family and so community based, but it’s just not the world we live in.”
What can students who are concerned for the safety of the belongings do to protect them?
In order to prevent future events similar to Johnson’s vandalism, Nicklaus encourages community policing, a suggestion which is also endorsed by Jessica Joanis, assistant dean of students and director of conference services. Joanis is also in charge of safety and security.
“I think that [community policing] is exactly what ResLife encourages you guys to do,” Joanis said. “I always explain during welcome week that the people who work here like the housekeeping staff and plant department, they wear a uniform, so if they were in the residence hall, then you can tell right away if they work here or not…Just because you see somebody walking through a residence hall that might be dressed nice or you think that they might be a professor but you’re not sure; I think questioning that is exactly what we should do.”
She added students increase the risks they take when they do not participate in community policing and don’t pay attention to who they let into the dorms.
“When you let somebody in a door of the building without knowing whether or not they are a Ripon College student like you’re just going in and they just follow you in and you don’t think about it, then I think we put ourselves at risk in some of those situations,” Joanis said.
Joanis noted that community policing has already helped with past incidents such as the Scott Hall fire-alarm robberies.
“The reason those people got caught in the Scott Hall [fire-alarm robberies] is because other Scott Hall residents came up to me because I was still the director of Residence Life and they said, ‘we don’t know who those two are over there, those two people.’ That’s how we found out that they weren’t suppose to be in the building because they weren’t Scott Hall residents. As a community as a whole, we do a really good job of looking out for each other; it’s harder at the very beginning of the year because you don’t know who’s who yet, but I think we do fail at locking our doors and stuff,” she said.
Besides help catch thieves and prevent further incidents, community policing can help create an environment students and staff want to have around campus by holding each other responsible for our actions.
“If you want to live in a place where people don’t want to steal stuff from each other, then y’all got to call each other out when you see it,” Joanis said. “If you want to go live in a place where people aren’t screaming, hooting and hollering at four in the morning, then it’s more powerful if your neighbor comes and knock on your door about it than if an R.A. comes and does it because that’s hypothetically your friend or somebody you don’t want to impact their experience negatively. In terms of that definition of community policing where we all hold each other accountable for the kind of community we want to create, then I think very much so every student should be doing that.”
Although community policing may help prevent many future incidents, students should also increase their own personal security by locking their belongings up and being careful. Joanis stated that students’ personal security is a big concern on campus because students fail at locking their doors.
“Every orientation, every summer orientation, every fall welcome week stuff that I do with first-year students, the number one thing that I say that Ripon College students don’t do well is lock their doors,” Joanis said. “I think most of it is that student’s don’t lock their doors, and they don’t recognize that they bring thousands of dollars worth of stuff. They don’t recognize…[that] we can be seen as a target in the community because they are all concentrated in one area, so if I was somebody who was like ‘where am I going to find 500 iPods or iPhones or laptops?’ then this would be where I would think.”
If an incident of theft or vandalism happens in the future, Nicklaus encourages students to contact their R.A.’s and hall directors by calling the on-duty phone numbers. He suggests students should put the R.A.s on-duty phone numbers into their phones just in case they hear anything or a similar event happens. The on-duty phone number for T.A.J. (Tri, Appartements, Johnson) is #920-239-6535, Scott is #920-238-6586 and the Quad is #920-252-6387.