Police keep community safe during county’s fluctuating crime rates

(File Photo by George Walker | The Collegian) (Graphic compiled by Audrey Hockersmith | The Collegian)

When it comes to personal and property crimes on K-State’s campus, the numbers are low and the crime rate is consistent, said Maj. Donald Stubbings, assistant director of the K-State Police Department.

According to the K-State 2014 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety report, reported personal crimes rates from 2011-13 are low. Personal crimes are offenses against a person, such as aggravated assault, battery or sexual assault. There have been zero negligent manslaughters, and one murder or non-negligent manslaughter in the time period.

Aggravated assault has doubled, from two reports on campus in 2011 to four in 2013.

Reported forcible sex offenses have decreased. In 2011, there were seven reports of forcible sex offenses on campus and five on non-campus properties; in 2013 reported sex offenses decreased to five on campus and one on non-campus properties.

Students are reported to have said they feel comfortable on K-State’s campus.

“I feel pretty safe during the day, and at night I keep my keys out just in case,” Katherine Floyd, senior in civil engineering, said. “I’ve never really thought about my safety, I just assume I’m safe.”

Alex Good, senior in humanities and social sciences, said his time living in Manhattan felt safer than living in Topeka.

“I’ve never seen violence happen, nor have I witnessed any crimes on campus,” Good said. “I feel safe. I deliver pizza all around town and even in the less nice parts of town I feel safe. Topeka and Manhattan are polar opposites … I know several people who have been jumped in Topeka, and I know no one personally who’s been jumped in Manhattan.”

When comparing the crime rates between personal crimes that happen against individuals and property crimes, such as burglary, theft and vandalism, property crimes occur more prominently. Burglary alone has more reports than all personal crimes combined in 2013, even though there was a 36 percent decrease from 2011 to 2013 in burglaries on campus. Stubbings said with thefts, it could be one or two people committing these crimes rather than several random people making these numbers increase.

Both Stubbings and Matthew Droge, public information officer for the Riley County Police Department, said they believe educating the public is the best way to prevent property crimes. Locking car doors, protecting valuables and not leaving things unattended are just a few examples of simple steps that people can take to prevent property crimes.

According to Droge, motor vehicles thefts are up this year in Riley County, which he said is uncharacteristic for the Manhattan community. In 90 percent of all vehicle burglaries in Riley County, the victim’s car was unsecured.

“There are things that people in the community can do to help lower that,” Droge said. “Locking your car door and rolling up your windows goes a very long way.”

Spikes in the amount of property crimes reported occur a few times a year. Stubbings said during the end of the semester and finals week, students are busier and a little less attentive about locking their doors or leaving a backpack unattended in the library for a moment. These moments make students more susceptible to being a victim of property theft.

Stubbings said he calls these moments “crimes of opportunities” in which people see a dorm room that is open or unlocked and empty and view it as an opportunity to steal a laptop or television. Stubbings explained that it has become easier to take valuables.

“Twenty years ago, even 10 years ago, students had their desktops computers, a big TV, things that were hard to carry away,” Stubbings said. “Now everything a student has is in their backpack, whether it be a tablet or a laptop … it’s all carried in one bag.”

Spikes in property crimes also also occur during the holidays when students leave to visit their families and their valuables are left vulnerable.

“When students are gone, property theft is likely to go up,” Droge said. “And it makes sense. You have a lot of homes and apartments that are left vacant for a week or two at a time and it’s likely there’s TVs, game systems, computers, cameras and whatnot inside those homes. Taking valuables with you, making sure blinds are closed, houses are locked up, have a friend check on your house if you can, those are things that can help reduce it.”

Lauren Hauser, junior in hospitality management, has reported being a victim of property theft twice, both times involving her bicycle.

“The first bike I found three blocks from my house, just lying on the side of the road in pieces,” Hauser said. “The tires were thrown in opposite directions and the pedals were all broken.”

In both incidents, her bicycle was not locked up. Hauser now double-checks to make sure her bicycle is secured to something when leaving it.

Drugs and alcohol are another concern brought up by Stubbings, who said he notices a spike in citations for underage drinking during football season. Liquor law arrests and violations are where the K-State Police Department stays the busiest. In 2011, there were 575 reports filed; that number increased by 11 percent in 2013 to 640 reports filled, which equaled 83 percent of all reports filled for the annual security report in 2013.

The diversion of prescription drugs has become an increasing problem and is difficult to stop or control. Prescription drugs such as Adderall, which is typically prescribed to people with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, have become very popular among college students as a study aid, according to Stubbings.

“Prescription drugs … are an odorless drug,” Stubbings said. “They are not something you are smelling like marijuana, so it’s hard to detect.”

From 2011-13, there was a 32 percent increase of drug abuse arrests and violations. As of now, Stubbings said the way they try to combat this is through word of mouth. People will report that they have missing drugs and the investigation section follows up on the report.

The Journal of American College Health’s research on “Illicit use of prescribed stimulant medication among college students” shows that 17 percent of 179 surveyed men and 11 percent of 202 surveyed women reported illicit use of prescribed stimulant medication. About 44 percent of surveyed students said they knew students who used stimulant medication illicitly for both academic and recreational reasons, according to the research.

Droge urges people to call the police and to make a report on even small crimes, such as when a car gets keyed or if a lawn ornament gets vandalized.

“The odd thing that I found when I became a cop was there are a lot of people that never call the police department because they don’t want to bother us, which is a very foreign concept to me,” Droge said.

Droge views personal and property crime as the same and equally important, because it is happening to people and inconveniencing others’ lives. Droge urges people to call the RCPD for small crimes, because RCPD’s mission is to improve the quality of life in Riley County and to reduce crime.