Crime down, drug arrests up

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

SDSU crime statistics from the past three years indicate a decrease in on-campus criminal activity, even as other South Dakota universities and school cities continue to deal with prominent criminal cases.

Although liquor law violations decreased, 40 more people were arrested for on-campus drug law violations in 2001.

Doug Wermedal, director of Residential Life, said he was pleased with the decline in residential hall arrests, especially in the drop of alcohol-related ones.

“I’m glad to see that students are choosing to not engage in high-risk behavior,” he said.

Wermedal cited three possible reasons for the decline in liquor law violations in the halls.

The first is staff continuity. Many staff members in the halls and the UPD have been around for three to five years, he said.

“It’s simple,” he said. “The halls are receiving better education and enforcement. It’s the same with the UPD.”

Secondly, Wermedal said, the “4-no-More” anti-drinking campaign in 1999-2000 may have caused students to re-think alcohol habits.

He said alcohol violations in the residence halls fell 13 percent during the year of the campaign.

Wermedal also said he believes students’ attitudes toward drinking have changed.

“Many more students are abstaining from alcohol or at least not engaging in high-risk drinking behavior,” he said.

Wermedal said paraphernalia violations contributed to the increase in residence hall drug law infractions.

“Many are likely linked to something as simple as having a bong or rolling papers in the room, not necessarily 27 cases of marijuana,” he said.

UPD Chief Tim Heaton said he was happy to see a decrease in crime at SDSU. He predicted the 2002 crime stats will continue the trend.

“Students are learning,” he said. “They’re figuring out that if we catch them, we will arrest them. Students at a university are smart enough to know that.”

High-profile criminal cases have been a problem in Vermillion this fall.

According to The Volante, the University of South Dakota’s student newspaper, the number of incidents reported to the Vermillion Police Department is up by 50 reports from Jan.1 to Sept. 30 this year, compared to that same time frame in 2001.

In the last two months, Vermillion has had two violent crimes, including a stabbing death, and reports of three separate rapes.

On campus, a female student was attacked, but managed to free herself.

In another assault incident, a female was fondled in the residence halls. University public safety officers are also investigating a seven-car string of burglaries between Sept. 8 and Sept. 17 on campus.

UPD Patrol Officer Mike Kilber said that he believes the main difference between USD’s security and SDSU’s UPD is each department’s approach.

“Our philosophy is different from other departments,” he said. “At SDSU, we try to be there before a crime happens. It could be that other departments around tend to be reactive. We feel that if we keep enough people around, that it will deter crime before it happens.”

Kilber also said that a difference in department structure plays a part, too.

“The USD security is not a separate department,” he said. “They go through the Vermillion Police Department. The UPD is its own institution.”

The fact that students can count on a safe campus is very important to the UPD, Kilber said.

“We want everyone to know that any type of safety issue is a big issue to us,” he said.