Students are expressing concerns about recent events on campus that make them feel unsafe.
Events like encounters with fake maintenance workers, burglaries, and stolen cell phones and cars have happened this academic year.
Madison Snow, biomedical science sophomore, received a call Sept. 17 from Hannah Bach, music theater sophomore and her roommate, saying that a man pretending to be a maintenance worker tried to enter their Cokesbury Court apartment.
“It was clear he didn’t belong here,” Snow said. “I have no idea where he would have come from.”
The man, who was dressed in dark clothing and spoke little English, knocked on the door, Snow said. When Bach cracked it open, he told her he was there to check the plumbing, but she didn’t let him in. The man asked her if she was a student and that’s when she closed the door and called Snow. After that, they called campus police together.
“She was very freaked out, understandably so,” Snow said.
Only moments after the police were contacted, Snow said she saw police vehicles patrolling the campus.
“We’re still a lot more careful about keeping our door locked, but knowing that OCU police was there within five minutes of me calling is putting me at ease,” she said.
It’s not difficult for outsiders to enter Cokesbury, but Snow said she never saw any issues until that incident.
“I know last semester there were some problems with people going into rooms and creeping around, but that was the first I heard of it this semester,” she said.
The gates to Cokesbury are rarely closed, Snow said.
“That could be a safety concern,” she said. “The fact that break-ins happen is concerning. That shouldn’t be happening. The gates weren’t working until this week. That’s the only time they’ve even been operating since we moved in.”
Bradd Brown, chief of police, said the department is working to improve security around the apartments, including installing additional cameras.
“There’s more cameras that have been purchased,” he said. “They’re in the process of getting those installed.”
More cameras would allow officers to review security footage and catch intruders, Brown said.
Despite these concerns, Snow is optimistic about her safety.
“As long as you’re mindful of what’s going on around you, I think you have a pretty good chance of not running into trouble,” Snow said.
The most commonly reported crime on campus during the 2015 school year was burglary, according to the annual Security and Fire Report, released Oct. 1 by campus police. Both burglary and sexual assault were ranked as more commonly reported in 2015 than in previous years.
The university police department gathers their crime statistics from the Oklahoma City police department and campus security authorities.
“It’s not what you think of as a burglar breaking in at night. It usually happens in an office, where someone’s not supposed to be there,” Brown said. “If they enter a room, and they steal something out of that room, and we get something reported missing, that’s recorded as a burglary.”
A student’s cell phone was taken and a car was stolen out of the Cokesbury parking lot in the past two months.
This is the second time since February that a cell phone was stolen from students on campus, but this is the only reported car theft since 2013.
“You’ve got to be careful,” Brown said. “We have security, and we live in a small community of people. You generally know when someone doesn’t belong on campus, and we generally get a call when that happens.”
Brown said he will remind students to lock their cars and their apartment and dorm doors.
Six sexual assaults were reported during the 2015 calendar year.
Brown said he thinks that more sexual assaults are being reported on college campuses due to a nationwide effort to bring more awareness to sexual assaults, especially on college campuses.
Officials are working to increase student education on sexual assault awareness and the dangers of alcohol consumption, Brown said.
Remy Barnett, Title IX investigator, joined OCU this past academic year, and Brown thinks this has made an impact on the awareness of sexual assault. Victims of an assault can notify Barnett if they don’t feel comfortable going to law enforcement. Barnett then contacts the police department, but doesn’t have to reveal all details.
Students can also contact Joey Croslin, Title IX coordinator, to report a sexual assault.
“That’s what the Title IX process is for,” Brown said. “It’s an administrative investigation to make sure remedies are in place, and then the law enforcement investigation is separate.”
In order to protect oneself against a sexual assault, Brown says the most important thing is to stay alert.
“Whether you’re here on campus or walking at the mall, don’t talk on the cellphones when you’re out walking,” Brown said. “Be aware of who’s walking behind you or around you. Make eye contact to let people know that you see them.”
Pepper and mace
A new firearms and weapons policy is being added that will allow the use of pepper spray and mace.
“We’re always looking at things we can do to improve security,” Brown said.
This is something that wasn’t allowed under the university’s former weapon policy, Brown said.
“We thought that was important to let people carry defensive things like that,” he said.
Brown said that students are often hesitant to call campus police about issues that they face.
“Just call us,” Brown said. “Don’t hesitate to report anything to our university police department.”
To contact campus police, call 405-208-5911.