Crime Hotspots

Do you ever avoid a certain area of your town or any town simply because it has a reputation for being unsafe? If you are going on a trip to somewhere unknown, don’t you want to be more aware of the dangers in that specific area? Friday, April 22, an event was held in Spratt Hall to enlighten students on the role of geographic information systems. Missouri Western welcomed Steven Ericson, from the Department of Geography at the University of Alabama, to come talk a little more about what exactly these hotspots are and why they are important. “Hotspot mapping allows people to really pinpoint and identify larger areas where crimes occur,” Ericson said. Ericson explained that hotspotting allows people to see if it just one specific place or a larger area is at risk for high crime. Ericson went on to say students should be asking themselves, “Where am I looking and where are my surroundings, so I don’t become the victim of crime?” “A lot of crime, in my opinion, is preventable -- especially with the help of these hotspot maps," Ericson said. According to Ericson, people have been recording crime hotspots for about 20 years. Some newspapers are showing maps with hotspots now to make their readers more aware of the locations that are unsafe, helping to prevent future crime. “It also helps police departments to better allocate when there are fewer police working, where they need to patrol to reduce crime; it allows them to better allocate their resources”. Ericson added that it’s also useful for university police departments to better to serve and raise awareness with students. It can let them know what parts of the campus and towns around them to avoid. Professor of History, Jay Lemanski, attended this event, and thinks Ericson is doing vital work. “The work Dr. Ericson does is important," Lemanski said. “The most interesting thing I learned were the different methods and theories. I think an interesting part of his presentation was where he listed different theories of crime and trying to find a way to correlate that to geography and where it occurs.”

Crimes on campus

Clery Reports When high school students are looking into what college they want to attend for the next four years, something they all may consider is safety. Living on a college campus is a different experience from living at home. Like in the real world, a campus is its own little community. That being said, crimes happen on campuses just as regularly as they do in the real world. All colleges are required to have what is called a Clery Report posted on their public website. The report details all of the crimes that have occurred on that campus dating back three years from the present. The Clery report was named for Jeanne Clery, a student who was raped and killed on her college campus. Her death caused an outcry for a change in campus security and how information is shared about campus crimes. Clery reports not only detail crimes such as rape or murder, but also things like alcohol, drugs, burglary, hate crimes and arson. These reports can be found with a quick search on a university's website. All one would have to do is go to the search bar and type in “Clery Report” and they would gain access to the current year and previous year's reports. Campus comparison According to the Clery reports for Missouri Western, Northwest Missouri, Southern Missouri, Truman and Harris Stowe crime rates have either gone down or stayed about the same for the past three years. All of the following data was located on the Clery Reports for each of the schools. The data was taken from the “Main Campus including Residential buildings” columns. At Missouri Western the most commonly reported crimes are drugs and alcohol. In the past three years the number of alcohol referrals was 245 with 56 arrests. Drug violations came out to 72 referrals and 34 arrests. The number of alcohol referrals have gone up over the last three years, but the number of arrests have gone down. At Northwest the most common crimes reported are also drugs and alcohol. Their numbers come out to 441 alcohol referrals with only 8 alcohol arrests, 80 drug referrals and 29 drug arrests for the past three years combined. At Missouri Southern, the numbers for drug and alcohol are a little different. They had 200 alcohol referrals and zero arrests. For drugs there were 29 referrals and six arrests. Truman had the most surprising numbers with 29 alcohol referrals and 111 arrests. Harris Stowe had the least amount of crimes occurring on their campus with only 13 crimes total over the past three years in the shown categories. Each of these campuses differ in size and student population. Residential Life Crime Prevention Missouri Western, like most colleges, has a department called Residential Life. The department is in charge of all things having to do with student housing. The department is made up of a number of people. There is a director of residential life, assistant director, residents hall directors and resident assistants. Residential Life acts as a safety measure for students. Resident Assistants are students who live in the residential halls who act as a resource for students. They are there to help with any questions residents may have and to enforce policies. The police, security cameras and staff members all contribute to what keeps the campus safe. Missouri Westerns Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts is confident in the security measures that are present on campus, including ones that typically are not thought of as security. “I honestly think our custodians are very good security measures during the day. They are full time staff members and sometimes we underestimate how good of eyes and ears they can be,” Roberts said. Being a college atmosphere, drugs and alcohol are naturally going to be present whether or not they are allowed. That isn't the only trouble campuses find; theft and assault are also something that can occur on a college campus At Missouri Western, resident assistants are around to make sure none of those things happen. Every night there are two RAs on duty who do three rounds a night checking all of the residential halls for policy violations and crimes. It is their job to address a situation if they can handle it, and if it is above their capabilities they call the Residential Hall Director that is on duty or the campus police. Residents may become violent, illegal drugs may be involved or residents may just not want to cooperate. These are situations where the RA will step back and let the RHD or police handle it. RAs are meant to be a resource that students want to talk to and feel comfortable going to for help. That is why RAs are given less responsibility when it comes to enforcing policy and disciplining students. The goal is to make sure that residents still want to keep a positive relationship with their RA. Roberts thinks that the system implemented on the Missouri Western campus is set up in the most effective way possible. “The main responsibility of the RA is to create a good cohesive community and develop good relationships with the students that live on their floor, and so if you put the staff in a position to be handing out sanctions for even minor violations, it changes the dynamic of the student and the RA, and we want students to still attend programs and anything that creates animosity is going to be a barrier to that,” Roberts said. When a student is caught by their own RA breaking policy, it can lead to less positive interactions in the future. That is why RHDs or the police are in charge of disciplinary actions. Campus Police Involvement Another security measure on college campuses is the presence of a campus police force. They step in when Residential Life is not equipped to handle situations and for any other situation that requires police presence. Missouri Western's police force, like Residential life, does their own kind of rounds every day. They patrol the campus and intervene when necessary. Being a commissioned police force, Missouri Western's officers have full arrest capabilities. This means that any situation on campus can be handled by them without the backup of St. Joseph PD. They are, however, called in if it is a more serious situation or if there is reason to believe a person of interest to the St. Joseph PD is on campus. Yvonne Meyer, Missouri Western's chief of police says that she will err on the side of caution when it comes to handling situations and will request help when needed. “If the crime occurred on campus then we deal with it unless it is something we feel we couldn’t handle. For instance, heaven forbid, if there was a homicide on campus, I would make the call to pull in some resources because they are involved more routinely with those kinds of things,” Meyer said. When it comes to residential life getting the police involved in incidents, Missouri Western differs from Northwest slightly. Missouri Western RAs typically will handle situations to the best of their abilities without calling for backup from the police until it is necessary. Northwest, however, prefers that the RAs call the police before they even intervene in any situations. They have found that the confrontations automatically go smoother when an officer is present from the beginning. Chief of Police Clarence Green at Northwest thinks that having the officers respond to every situation in the residential halls has really helped with catching crimes and getting more offenses reported. “When RAs were handling situations there were less than 50 alcohol issues a year. Now it is up to 150 with students calling us first. It's best to get the police first when folks are not thinking clearly,” Green said. Now most people would think that it is a bad thing that the number of alcohol incidents went up, but it is actually the opposite. Students are reporting more incidents to the police because there is a better chance of the situation being handled effectively. With the increased number of alcohol referrals over the past three years going from 35 and 70 to 140, there has been a decrease in the number of alcohol related arrests going from 28 and19 to nine. With more police involvement, residential life is having an easier time handling and documenting alcohol incidents and students are more likely to comply. Northwest, like Missouri Western, has a commissioned police force and also has 50 student workers and an investigator. Green is positive that because of the resources they have available, crime has stayed average on campus. “We measure our crime rate and it has stayed pretty steady over the last several years, and it has gone down in the areas of theft, and I credit it to us hiring an investigator, and we’ve equipped our staff to handle it,” Green said. Meyer has also noticed that the number of alcohol incidents/referrals has gone up and has attributed it to residential life getting the police more involved as well. Unlike Missouri Western and Northwest, Missouri Southern has less of a problem with drugs and alcohol because they have a smaller number of students living on campus. The biggest issue Missouri Southern faces is hit and run accidents and thefts. Ken Kennedy, Missouri Southern's chief of police, says that while those are the most common issues, the most serious thing their campus faces along with most others, is sexual assault. “Our most serious crime that all campuses deal with would be sexual assaults. I teach classes for self defense since 05, and we’ve expanded it to a full semester class,” Kennedy said. While Missouri Southern is teaching self defense classes, Northwest has something called the Green Dot program. It is designed to encourage bystanders to intervene when they see a situation that could escalate into something violent. At Northwest and Missouri Western, the police want to be as involved as they can with residential life and the students on campus. “Pizza With the Police” is an event that both schools put on. Northwest has been doing the event for a few years now and this year was Missouri Western's first year putting it on. Northwest has had great turnouts with 1,000 students attending. Missouri Western hasn't had quite that many students attend yet. Building positive relationships with students is one way the police on campus can make sure that positive interactions will happen in the future in the event of an incident.

Sanctions filed against student involved in fight outside of Blum

The fight involving two Western students that took place outside of Blum Union Nov. 4, 2015 resulted in a university suspension and a university probation. The altercation received scrutiny from Western students after what many considered to be an unnecessary use of a stun gun by a police officer during the altercation. On Nov. 11, 2015, The Griffon News provided a detailed review of the case and witness perspectives. The two students involved in the fight were labeled “the individual in white” and “the individual in yellow” in order to maintain the potential innocence of the students, since, at the time, they had not gone through the legal process of guilt. The individual in white, Terrence Malcolm McKelvy, was charged with “fighting or riotous conduct to endanger another” and “assault of a law enforcement officer” after he had made contact with Western Police Chief Yvonne Meyer. He was sanctioned with university suspension, effective until Aug. 1, 2017. The individual in yellow, Cordale William Cox, was only charged with “fighting or riotous conduct to endanger another” and was sanctioned with university probation, effective until Dec. 31, 2016. According to Missouri Case.net, the state’s automated case management system, neither McKelvy nor Cox were criminally charged through Buchanan County for their involvement in the altercation. Both McKelvy and Cox were contacted, but refused to reply. Police Chief Yvonne Meyer was also contacted, but refused to reply.

Witnesses question police use of stun gun during fight

Officers finish handcuffing the individual who had a stun gun deployed against him.
A Western police officer’s use of his stun gun to subdue a suspect involved in a fight on campus has left multiple student witnesses claiming an overuse of force. The fight between two male students took place just before noon, Nov. 4, outside of the Blum Student Union. [caption id="attachment_25998" align="alignnone" width="300"]Officers finish handcuffing the individual who had a stun gun deployed against him. Officers finish handcuffing the individual who had a stun gun deployed against him.[/caption] Charges were filed by the MWSU Police Department against the two males involved in the fight, after one made contact with Police Chief Yvonne Meyer. The individual who made contact with Meyer was cited for assault of a law enforcement officer and both individuals were cited with fighting or riotous conduct to endanger another. At press time, no charges have been filed by the Buchanan County prosecuting attorney's office, according to MissouriCase.net. Though specific accounts vary slightly, six student witnesses agree on the following series of events:
  1. Two individuals began fighting outside of Blum Student Union, one wearing a yellow shirt, one wearing a white shirt.
  2. Police Chief Yvonne Meyer exited Blum and stood between the two individuals fighting.
  3. The individual in yellow complied with Meyer’s demands to step back and get on the ground; the individual in white continued pushing Meyer in what appeared to be an attempt to continue the fight.
  4. A number of other officers exited Blum
  5. A police cruiser jumped the Downs Drive curb and drove through the grass to the Blum parking lot.
  6. An officer exited the vehicle, ran to the scene and at some point in time pulled out his stun gun.
  7. The officer drew his stun gun and shot the weapon at the individual in white.
  8. The individual in white immediately fell to the ground.
  9. Both individuals were placed in handcuffs.
Meyer says that the use of force by the officers throughout the entire incident was within their guidelines. "We used a use of force that is not only in our policy, but is across the board within a use of force continuum," Meyer said. "The subject [who the stun gun was used on] was not complaint. I would say documented non-compliant in four different instances." The incident report officer narrative states, "On 11-4-2015 at approximately 1155 Hours, Missouri Western Officers were dispatched to a Fight in Progress in Parking Lot G." Four eyewitnesses claim that the individual in white was not being aggressive at the time that the officer unholstered his stun gun. Two eyewitnesses suggest that from their vantage point, the use of a stun gun could have been warranted. Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, believes that the use of a stun gun was justified. “When an incident occurs where our officers are required to use force in response to a situation, the details of the incident are reviewed by Chief Meyer, as well as Tim Kissock, our Risk Manager, and myself as the Vice President to whom the Police Department reports,” Fessler wrote in an email response. “Both Tim and I have reviewed the details of the case and believe our officers responded appropriately." However, Michael Smith, SGA Director of Student Affairs, who saw and heard the fight and the police response firsthand, believes that the officer's use of a stun gun was unjustified. “[The officer] ran up the grass, with his taser in hand, proceeded to say, ‘Stop, or I will tase you,’ and no more than two seconds afterwards, proceeded to tase him in the back when he was not being aggressive towards the officer,” Smith said. “Previously, he was trying to push through [Police Chief Yvonne Meyer]. He did not hit the officer. He was only trying to push through her.” Junior Graham Deckard and junior Chris Miles both saw the incident occur while they were located inside of the food court in Blum. Though they could not hear, they both separately stated that the use of a stun gun was “excessive force.” “He wasn’t compliant as the officer [who deployed his stun gun] was running up, but as soon as the officer got there… he immediately got real compliant,” Deckard said. “The tasing wasn’t really in an effort to contain the situation as much as excessive force after the situation had already been contained.” Miles not only believes that the use of a stun gun was unjustified, but that Meyer had the fight under control whenever the officer who deployed his stun gun had arrived. “Even by herself, she could have controlled everything,” Miles said. “By the time that the second officer [the officer who deployed his stun gun] got there and made his presence known, the situation had de-escalated.” Though the first four witnesses explicitly stated that the use of a stun gun was unwarranted,  SGA Executive Vice President Brad Stanton and SGA President Ida Haefner suggest that the misuse of force argument is unclear. “I don’t really feel like we’re qualified to make that judgment,” Stanton said. Haefner suggests that because of their inability to hear the situation, their judgment is less accurate. “You can’t really say much on ‘visual wise’ because I don’t remember his body movements,” Haefner said. “I think it kind of comes down to what words were being said.” Haefner also suggests that the body movements of the individual in white may have changed the intent of his actions. “He [the individual in white] had put up his hands when he [the officer who deployed his stun gun] pulled out his taser,” Haenfer said. However, Haefner could not recall whether the individual still had his hands up when he was shot with the stun gun. The Griffon News will continue to update with more details regarding the case.

Criminally-charged incidents occurred at Western

Two criminally-charged incidents involving Western took place Wednesday, Sept. 11. The first was an unsubstantiated threat against campus and the second was an altercation between a law enforcement officer and an individual on campus. Western police received a threat against campus Wednesday shortly before 11 a.m. Students, faculty and staff received an email notification at 12:10 p.m, reading: “Shortly before 11 a.m., Missouri Western police received a report of a threat of violence against the campus. A person of interest was detained by St. Joseph Police off campus, and there is no ongoing threat at this time.” Jeff Wilson, Saint Joseph Police Department Press Liaison Officer, explains that there were no arrests made after the incident. “What we received was some information basically third hand, we responded out to a residence out in St. Joe who is associated with Missouri Western,” Wilson said. “After being interviewed by our officers, it was determined that any threat was unsubstantiated.” Though the threat resulted in no arrests, Kent Heier, assistant director of public relations and marketing, suggests that the threat was serious at the time. “The person indicated that they were intending to harm others and themselves,” Heier said. “The person was not on campus when the threat was made.” The unnamed person of interest was male and was at least at one time a student at Western. Though the threat was deemed unsubstantiated, Highway Patrol officers arrived on campus as a precautionary measure. Tim Kissock, Western risk manager explains that if the incident had been an actual threat against campus, Western would have acted differently. “If there would have been a more immediate threat, we would have issued some sort of lockdown,” Kissock said. The second incident occurred outside of Blum just after 1 p.m, which led to an altercation between an officer and an individual on campus. "Missouri Western police escorted a person off campus who was not allowed to be on campus," Heier said. "The Missouri State Highway Patrol officers were on campus because of the earlier reported incident and were standing by to provide assistance if needed, but were otherwise not involved." Information could not be released as to why the individual was not allowed to be on campus. However, possibilities range from restraining order against the individual to the possible presence of a weapon on the individual. Students did not receive a notification about the second incident.