Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Security reveals potential high-risk locations on campus

The landscape of campus changes when you’re a Whitman security officer. A peaceful place to sit and read or an easy path to take to get to class could become a more dangerous area after dark. These spots: whether poorly lit at night or difficult to see from trafficked areas: see criminal activity more often than others.

Credit: Allie Felt

Associate Director of Security Craig McKinnon stressed that although no area of campus is truly unsafe, some, due to more frequent criminal activity, draw more frequent patrols.

“There really isn’t a dangerous spot. When we have crime occur, sometimes we’ll have areas that get hit harder, but to say that they’re dangerous would be misleading,” McKinnon said. “We’ve had activity on the tennis courts when the lights are out. There has been intermittent activity between Science and Olin. We’ve seen some activity in Narnia and the amphitheater area and, of course, a lot between Jewett and Olin because we have frat houses over there.”

On patrol, McKinnon is on the lookout for criminal activity, such as assault, name-calling, threats and intimidation, and such suspicious activity as loitering by unknown figures.

“Assaults are not very frequent on this campus,” he said. “We’ve had moments when there’s been half a dozen in a semester, generally because a group: for example, a gang or disorganized group from Walla Walla: comes onto campus looking for trouble or [because of] one person with a criminal mindset.”

The most frequent criminal activity taking place in these spots is alcohol and drug use in violation of college policies. These violations can range from a simple open bottle to public disorderliness and belligerence. Security Officer John Delaney described an area of concern on the street side of Olin Hall, known to students as “The Grates.”

“We’re keeping an eye on it at night. We’ve found empty baggies [from previous drug use] back there,” Delaney said. “You just don’t know who’s going to be back there. We’re trying to figure out a way to alleviate it.”

In addition to stepping up patrol visits to higher-crime spots, security officers have other tools they can use to make the area safer.

“They may be lighting it up; they may down some shrubbery around the area,” Delaney said. “A lot of the dark spots on campus have had shrubs removed to open them up.”

In the past, several areas on campus have had plant coverage removed in order to decrease hidden activity. Director of security Terry Thompson related that Narnia was once a high-alert location for his officers.

Credit: Allie Felt

“A few years ago, Narnia was just a pit. It was overgrown with all sorts of plants. You couldn’t see it from Boyer,” Thompson said. “It was just an invite for somebody to get raped down there. So the grounds crew came in and totally remodeled it. You try to eliminate cover for criminal activity.”

Poorly lit areas or areas hidden from public view can also exacerbate the problem of criminal activity by non-students on campus. Thompson explained how crime in Walla Walla can spill into areas such as Isaacs Avenue, the Glover Alston Center: a frequent destination for homeless campers: and even the heart of campus.

“Because we have open buildings, we have non-students show up frequently. A lot of our bicycle thefts are related to non-students,” Thompson said. “At night we keep an eye on Isaacs. There’s been a significant increase in gang activity in Walla Walla in the last few years: shootings, drive-bys, that sort of thing. So we keep an eye on traffic.”

Whitman security maintains a strict policy of approaching any suspicious non-students and making bystanders aware of their presence. At night, they target any activity in dark or hidden areas such as the amphitheater.

“We have a set policy on the campus, and we have to abide by law,” McKinnon said. “Our mindset is to approach everything with an open mind; everything’s fine unless we see something that warrants contact.”

Though the average student has nothing to fear at Whitman on a typical night, Thompson has advice for anybody worried about passing near a more dangerous spot.

“We suggest people travel in groups. Be aware of your surroundings if you’re alone. Stay out on the street or on the sidewalk, and have your cell phone ready to call security,” he said. “And if you’re really concerned, we will escort you to where you need to go. That’s a service we provide. It’s not very well used.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *