Esther Peralez has an actual badge that says “SHERRIF,” but for the vice president of student affairs, the increase in drug law violations is more about education than enforcement.
“I’m really about accountability. I’m really about teachable moments and educational moments,” she said. “So if we say that there are no drugs or alcohol on campus, why are we turning our heads if there is?”
The release of the 2010 Annual Clery Crime Report revealed increases in arrests and referrals for several crimes. Drug law violation referrals increased by 337 percent while arrests increased by 57 percent in the residence halls. Drug arrests on campus increased by 90 percent.
“Drugs and alcohol are probably not a good choice,” Peralez said, “but for many of you, you’re probably going to try it.”
Peralez would rather call those people in and discuss the opportunities that the students are jeopardizing.
“For some it’s scary enough that they stop and you don’t see them again,” she said. “For others, they keep pushing the envelope and finally you’re suspended.”
For the first time last year, Peralez said that all of the Residence Hall Directors had their Master’s degrees. She believes that the increase is due to the maturity level of the RHDs and their willingness to work with students and discover drug problems.
Police Chief Jon Kelley also attributes the increase in referrals to the awareness and education of students by Residential Life and Student Affairs. Despite several increases, Kelley believes that the report still shows that Western’s campus is safe.
“I see no murders and no manslaughters,” Kelley said. “I’m happy about that.”
Kelley said that most of the drug related arrests are for drug paraphernalia or marijuana.
“You’ve got to remember, we live on a college campus,” he said, “and when you live on a college campus those things are going to happen.”
Putting things into perspective, Kelley said that out of the roughly 1000 residential students, Western police only arrested 19 for drug law violations. From 2009 to 2010, the number of liquor law violations went from 20 to 28, or a 40 percent increase.
“I don’t think drug arrests are any more serious than alcohol arrests,” Kelley said. “If you look across the country, alcohol kills more people every year than drugs — alcohol related incidents.”
Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, believes that the report reflects that Western is a safe campus.
“I think we have heightened the awareness of it,” Klinkner said. “I think it’s always difficult to determine what causes the change from year to year. Sometimes you can point to it.”
The largest increase in the report was the increase in referrals, which Klinkner attributes to the education of Student Affairs and Residential Life.
“To me it’s more of students taking ownership in it,” Klinkner said.
Another staggering number is the increase in sexual offenses. In 2010 the number of forcible sexual offenses increased by two, which was zero in 2009.
“There’s a couple of sexual offenses,” Kelley said, “and of course we always want to work on those and refer those people to the areas they need to be referred to for their benefit.”
While the number of forcible sexual offenses has increased, Kelley said that neither of these were offenses by strangers to the victims. Kelley believes that the reason this number is low is because of the proactive enforcement of the other violations.
“We take the drug offenses and alcohol offenses seriously,” Kelley said. “But the majority of crimes that are committed today, those types or crimes, are committed by people who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.”