Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman administration addresses student concern about thefts

After returning to Walla Walla from winter break to find her off-campus house burglarized, senior Julie Grimm took action and organized a meeting with members of the Whitman administration to discuss students’ safety concerns. Along with Grimm, five other students met with Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland, Associate Dean of Students Nancy Tavelli and Director of Security Terry Thompson last Thursday, Jan. 21 to address strategies for recovering lost items, protecting personal property and preventing future burglaries.

Each student in attendance introduced him or herself at the outset of the meeting, all with the statement “I have been burglarized;” Grimm knew she was not alone in her frustration and fear.

Over the span of the college’s four-week winter break, Walla Walla experienced a 30 percent increase in burglaries, an increase that was also felt on the Whitman campus. Multiple off-campus student houses were burglarized as well as the Environmental Interest House.

In previous years, the majority of burglaries occurred as a result of doors left unlocked or windows left open. The recent burglaries, however, have been forced entries, leading to renewed fears about the state of security in the Whitman community.

Sophomore Lauren McCullough, the Environmental Interest House resident assistant, returned to the house on Jan. 7 to find her bedroom emptied of all valuables, including her laptop and digital camera. Electronics and cash have been common items stolen from students’ residences.

“It’s made me feel a lot more aware because there is definitely an emotional aspect to being burglarized,” said McCullough.

Senior Nadim Damluji, a student who attended last Thursday’s meeting, shared a similar sentiment.

“The worst thing is feeling like a victim and feeling like we’re being watched,” he said during the meeting.”I don’t want to feel so hopeless.”

Damluji’s off-campus house has been burglarized four times since the start of the academic year.

“You are being watched,” Director of Security Terry Thompson said in response.

According to Thompson, the predictability of students’ class schedules and activities, coupled with Whitman students’ high perception of security, led to the opportunity for burglaries.

In response to students’ concerns, Cleveland proposed various measures the college plans to take to prevent Whitman students from being future targets.

“There are more resources that we need to take advantage of as individuals and as a college,” he said.

One such measure is the hiring of an additional Whitman security guard to help patrol the immediate campus and surrounding area. The college currently employs four full-time security guards.

Cleveland has also asked campus security to step up patrols through the interest house community and around campus rental houses.

He enlisted the help of Walla Walla Police Department Crime Prevention Coordinator Vicki Ruley. Ruley has agreed to conduct free safety and security reviews of students’ residents, informing them what safety features: such as locks, windows and porch lights: need to be attended to.

Walla Walla Crime Prevention Officer Robert Reed noted that burglars can identify vulnerable residences, an important reason why students should upgrade their houses’ security features.

“I can easily walk through a neighborhood and tell you who’s home, who’s not, and which homes are an easy target. That means that burglars can too,” said Reed.

Junior Teresa Hughes’ residence, the site of another burglary, was entered from a window that did not properly lock. She had known of the window issue but not of her landlord’s responsibility to fix it due to safety measures.

“I needed to know that I could ask my landlord. I never thought to ask,” said Hughes.

Reed advises students that one of the best defensive strategies is to adopt a more assertive attitude. He says that Whitman students are often “too nice,” recalling stories of students hesitating to call the police about suspicious activity.

“The worst thing that could happen is you’re wrong. But 99 percent of the time your instincts are right,” said Reed, encouraging students to respond as soon as they perceive a threat.

Yet Grimm felt that the police did not properly handle her calls.

“A few times [the police] told me that the burglary did not happen or wasn’t reported, but it was reported,” she said. “I don’t know if they don’t see me as a real victim or they’re not concerned enough . . . but I feel frustrated talking to them about it because they don’t take me seriously.”

Cleveland promised to help facilitate police department and student communication in light of students’ complaints of difficulty working with the police.

According to Ruley, crime near campus is not uncommon. Her hope is that the community will become aware of the facts so that residents won’t risk the safety of their property and person in the future.

“It’s up to us as a community to keep ourselves safe,” she said.

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