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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Crime taints mood

By Stephanie Soucheray
News Editor

Friday, October 27, 2006

This fall, students' perception of the number of crimes on campus has risen. However, Residence Life and Public Safety assure students that the actual crime rate has not increased.

Instead, more e-mail communication from Public Safety, more awareness on the parts of students and more reports of suspicious activity have given the impression of increased crime on campus.

"This year there is not a difference in the amount of crime compared to last year," said Pamela McDowell, director of Residence Life. "But we're talking about things more and earlier than in years past."

McDowell also pointed out that the campus has been engaged in a yearlong discussion about the Ole Card system and residence hall keycards.

"Everyone has been talking about who can get into what buildings with a keycard system," McDowell said.

There have been some frightening incidents this fall involving non-St. Olaf students entering unlocked rooms and buildings on campus.

Students may recall that residence halls went on 24-hour keycard earlier than expected before Fall Concert on Sept. 30.

Residence halls always go on 24-hour keycard during Fall Concert because of the increased traffic on campus, but an incident in Rand Hall prompted an earlier lockdown than expected.

A male entered an unlocked room in the early morning as the residents were sleeping. Though they tried to chase him, he escaped.

The following week, the Schmidt Honor House was trespassed upon by two Carleton students who also entered through an unlocked front door in the early morning hours.

Since both of these incidents involved non-St. Olaf students, Public Safety has focused their efforts on patrolling areas of campus easily accessed by outsiders, and chasing non-registered cars off-campus.

"At a college campus, anyone could look like a student," said McDowell. "But often, non-students don't know how to act like students, and that's what sparks people's gut instincts."

Fred Behr, director of Public Safety is glad students are being more aware of suspicious activity, but he does not want students to become fearful.

"I just want people to be aware," Behr said. "If you're walking from the library to your residence hall, be aware of your surroundings. Don't listen to your iPod or daydream."

Behr also reinforces the importance of never walking alone at night. If students feel that there are certain areas on campus that need more Public Safety patrolling, just e-mail Behr.

McDowell corroborates this suggestion.

"We can always get Public Safety to patrol a new area or check out something by foot," McDowell said.

Still, some students, especially those in honor houses, don't feel safe walking home from the library.

"I was in the library when I read the e-mail about suspicious males hanging around the library steps to Ole Avenue," said Kari Bergeson '07.

Bergeson lives in the Norwegian house. "After 9 p.m., I feel like no one, including Public Safety, is present on Ole Avenue."

Carmen Cummings '09 lives in the German house.

“There's not enough light by the library steps. I only live a block away and I should feel comfortable walking home after studying," Cummings said.

Katie Henly ‘07, also lives in the German house. As house president, “I feel like I have a responsibility to make sure our house is as safe as possible,” Henly said.

Henly believes common sense can provide security for her housemates. “We have rules about locking the doors and who should be let into the house at night,” Henly said. “If everyone walks with a group and remembers to carry their keys we should all be fine.”

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