BY JESS LYNK
In the past month, 10 burglaries occurred within a half a mile of Drake’s campus, according to Des Moines Police Department statistics. Three of them involved Drake owned properties, according to Director of Campus Public Safety Scott Law.
Law decided to release a “campus announcement’” in the OnCampus newsletter on Jan. 30. The announcement made students aware of the pattern of burglaries occurring in the neighborhood.
“We saw three of the reports come over J-Term over a couple of days right before school opened. We said, ‘Oh we got a pattern here,’” Law said. “(We were) thankful we didn’t see a direct threat to any individuals. They were all going into unoccupied locations.”
After the string of burglaries, Law consulted with President Marty Martin and Chief Administrative Officer Vanessa Macro to decide whether or not to alert the campus community.
“We still thought it was important that we make our community aware of it. We were exceeding what the law says we had to do,” Law said “… We all thought that it was better for us to err on the side of giving additional information than saying, ‘Well we weren’t required to do it.’”
Under the Clery Act, which falls under Title IX, timely warnings are required when there is a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community.
Law did not feel there was “a direct threat to any individuals” after considering the fact that the crimes were happening to unoccupied locations but still felt the crimes called for an announcement.
Junior Hannah Van Zee had her house broken into on Feb. 5, just days after the announcement. Someone came into the first floor of her house.
Four of the owners were home.
“Honestly, we figure it was a fluke on our part,” VanZee said.
VanZee said her door was unlocked and the curtains were open. She also said there was a laptop sitting out, right in sight of the window.
“We made it pretty easy, so a guy saw a chance and took it,” VanZee said.
The man who came into her home “bolted” when one of her housemates went to the first floor.
VanZee said he cleary wasn’t looking for confromtation.
“I don’t feel unsafe in this neighborhood, and I don’t think this instance should be taken as evidence that the east side of campus is dangerous or ‘sketchy,” VanZee said. “As a person who’s had experience with pickpockets in big cities, if you make it easy anywhere, chances are that people will go for it.”
VanZee felt there are bigger issues to focus on, beyond the crime surrounding Des Moines.
“The bigger issue we should be focusing on is the wealth disparity between different areas of Des Moines,” VanZee said.
Although both Law and VanZee don’t see a direct threat to students, Law believes there are a few steps students and Drake Public Safety can take to ensure a more safe campus.
“Some of them are small like closing your blinds at night so people can’t see you have that nice big color TV sitting in your house, make sure you lock your doors in the evening when you are leaving,” Law said.
Law also thinks another step is awareness to the campus community, a step they took on Jan. 30.
“Through communication we are trying to make our campus community more aware of it, so they can take reasonable steps,” Law said.
Public Safety also has increased their patrol radius to go beyond campus.
“We have a pretty good idea where many of our students live, so we try and be a visible deterrent in those areas, especially in evening hours,” Law said. “ We also have the Drake Safe Bus going to areas where students live. It gives us more eyes and ears and serves as a visible deterrent to people trying to enter premises.”
Law encourages students to call Public Safety or the Des Moines Police Department if they suspect someone has broken into their home.
“They (Des Moines Police) really care, they don’t want this going on,” Law said. “But the only way they can stop this is for the community member to say ‘Hey I saw something odd” or ‘I noticed a guy who looked out of place.’”
Students can report suspicious activity to Public Safety by calling call 515-271-2222 or 811 for an emergency.