Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Crime wave hits campus, puts students on edge

A recent spike in criminal activities on campus has heightened security concerns at student residences and prompted Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland to issue a campus safety alert. Reported incidents include the assault and attempted robbery of a first-year student on Ankeny Field early Saturday morning, as well as thefts at Café 41 in the library, Lyman Hall, Jewett Hall, and the Interest House Community (IHC).   In the face of increased security threats, the administration is urging students to be vigilant both in matters of personal safety and the protection of personal belongings.

“It is important for the campus as a whole to be aware,” said Cleveland in the e-mail alert released to the student body on Tuesday.   Students should travel in groups at night or call campus security for an escort, he said, and report any suspicious persons.


Items most frequently targeted in the recent outbreak of thefts are blackberrys, cell phones, and laptops.   Students should immediately report missing possessions to campus security or the police.

“I want to encourage all Whitman community members to lock all doors when leaving an unattended room or office,” Cleveland wrote.   “Please do not leave valuable items laying in vulnerable locations.”

IHC Resident Director Patrick Herman echoed these sentiments in a warning sent out Wednesday evening to residents of the interest houses, in the immediate wake of a theft at the Writing House that resulted in the loss of a resident’s laptop.

“Security and the Walla Walla Police have been actively investigating these thefts, and apprehended one suspect in the Ankeny incident,” he said, referring to the assault .     “But we all need to be aware, keep our eyes open and our valuables safe.”

Beginning Wednesday, the IHC has instituted a system of 24-hour lockdown on all houses to combat the security threat.

According to the Walla Walla police officer that responded to the theft at the Writing House on Wednesday, the campus has seen a definite upsurge in criminal activity in recent weeks, particularly thefts at student residents.   The officer emphasized keeping all entrances locked at all times and the porch lights on, as intruders are likely to target a house more than once if their first attempt is successful.

The Writing House is not the first IHC residence in which items have been reported stolen since the start of the school year. Thefts occurred at the Community Service House in October.   A warning was also issued to the Whitman community after a student living in a rented house on Merriam Street encountered an intruder on Friday, Nov. 7.

When asked if campus security was equipped to handle this increase in crime, Bryant Stringham, part time Whitman security officer and patrolman for the city of Walla Walla insisted that the best way to reduce risk to people and property is for students to take logical precautions.

“The knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘Oh, security needs to beef up,’ but that won’t do any good if people won’t take responsibility for themselves and their belongings,” he said.


Campus security and the Residence Life staff of Jewett Hall responded to an incident involving two intruders on Saturday that culminated in one arrest.   The intruders, whom witnesses described as high school age Caucasian males, were intercepted in the Jewett lounge by senior Mike Minckler, the Resident Assistant of 2-West.

“I received complaints in my section that some strange, random guys were in the lounge,” Minckler said.   “I asked them if they lived in Jewett and they replied, ‘yeah, we do.’   I said I didn’t think so, and asked them to leave.”

Minckler said he called security when the two continued to behave suspiciously as he escorted them from the building.   A security officer, as well as Jewett Resident Director Jon Lundak, had already appeared on the scene in response to multiple residents’ claims that they recognized the two intruders as the same young men involved in the Halloween thefts in Lyman.   Security stopped the suspects on Ankeny, near Olin Hall.

“Jon and myself decided to go check up with security, because we realized this situation deserved a lot of attention,” Minckler said.   “As myself, Jon, and a Lyman resident were headed over to check the situation out, the two young men started running eastbound on Ankeny back towards Jewett.”

Lundak and Minckler then decided to assist security by intercepting the fleeing suspects as they ran, which enabled the security officer to tackle and contain one of the young men.   Minckler pursued the other through the construction site and across Ankeny, however the suspect was quite fast.

“He must have had quite a bit of adrenaline rushing in him,” Minckler said.

Police responded to the call and apprehended the remaining suspect, who was identified as a student at De Sales High School with possible gang affiliations.


When sophomore Johnny Zimmerman first spotted two figures approaching him on Ankeny Field around 1:15 a.m. on Saturday, he assumed they were fellow Whitman students coming back from a party.   Zimmerman had been visiting friends in North Hall and was returning to his room in Douglas Hall when he encountered the two men, one who was later described in Cleveland’s campus alert as Caucasian, 5″10 and stocky, the other Latino and slightly shorter, with a leaner build.

Zimmerman said the Caucasian figure, who initially approached Zimmerman asking him if he’d seen his dog, “smelled like alcohol and weed.”

“I would definitely say he was under the influence,” Zimmerman said.

The man continued to pursue Zimmerman across the field, demanding to know if he was carrying a weapon and then asking if Zimmerman wanted to fight him.

“It kind of came as a shock,” said Zimmerman of the incident.   “Especially on Ankeny.   That’s why I didn’t even try to avoid them when I was walking past them on the field.   Because I didn’t even think about there being a problem here.”

As Zimmerman continued moving in the direction of Jewett Hall, hoping to encounter fellow students and an open door, his pursuers threatened him and insisted that he stop walking away.   However, Zimmerman said the would-be muggers lost interest as he drew closer to Jewett and then met up with a group of Whitman students.   He called campus security on his cell phone at about 1:30 a.m. from behind Jewett to notify them of the situation.

Meanwhile, first-year Sam Alden was accosted by the same two men as he made his way from Lyman to the Library, at about 1:45 a.m.

After posing the same odd question about a lost dog, one of the men “continued walking past the point where it was obvious he should have stopped,” said Alden.

The men proceeded to assault Alden after he attempted to run for the library.   Although one of the attackers reached for Alden’s wallet, he threw it down again after discovering that it contained no cash.

When security arrived on Ankeny, responding to the call made by Zimmerman, the two attackers fled, leaving the injured Alden on the ground.

“I yelled at the security officers, ‘hey, I just got mugged!’ and they said ‘we know’ and came over,” said Alden.   “It was a police officer and one of the security guys.   They asked me questions about how they were dressed and what had happened, and they took my information.”

Although Alden was advised to seek help from the health center or counseling center if he saw fit, security did not escort Alden home after the incident occurred.   Zimmerman, too, noted that the security officer on the phone did not offer to escort him home.

“We have no way of knowing if they [students] want an escort,” said Stringham, when asked why the offer was not extended after the assault.   “If he [Alden] didn’t get one it’s because he didn’t ask for one.”

Senior Roman Goerss, ASWC Vice President and Chairman of Student Affairs, spoke to Alden about security’s response, and later presented concerns to Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell.

He expressed appreciation the college cares about its students, and that such discussions of concerns and suggested changes can be made.

Goerss’ suggested improvements for campus include ensuring that the blue emergency phones on campus function properly and that the warning e-mail system addresses incidents promptly, even if they occur on weekends.

“It’s at a point where we need this community to do something,” Goerss said.

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    sophieNov 18, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    This is a really well-reported article. Kudos!