SEMO officials say statistics suggest students are safe

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Southeast Missouri State University students walk past a campus emergency call box Tuesday. Though there has been a slight increase in some types of crime on the campus, it still is regarded as one of the safest campuses in the state. (ADAM VOGLER)

Although they acknowledged that room for improvement remains, Southeast Missouri State University officials on Tuesday said a new report depicts a campus that is largely free of violent crime.

With incidents such as assaults involving student athletes, some hazing and a flasher making headlines in recent years, they hope the report can assure students and parents that Southeast not only is an affordable place to receive an education, but also is a safe one.

"We're not making any excuses, there are areas we can improve in," said Doug Richards, who oversees the public safety department and its 30 or so officers. "But I think, overall, we will come in far below the national averages once again. We have crime here, but you can't eliminate everything."

The document, released about the same time that fliers went up warning students to keep a watchful eye for a flasher, reports a total of 87 Part I and Part II crimes, which are categories of reporting dictated by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting System. The department fielded 1,162 written reports during 2011, the most recent period covered in the four years of data provided.

The report, mandated of all universities by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, reveals that the Cape Girardeau campus and its satellites in Sikeston, Perryville and Malden in 2011 were involved in 49 crimes that fell into the more serious category that includes rape, burglary and theft. Repeating a three-year trend, no homicides or hate crimes were reported. The university also can claim high marks for declines in several areas, including five fewer burglaries -- falling from nine to four -- and two fewer drug violations.

Some crimes returned in 2011 that hadn't been reported the year before, although they are among the most serious. Single reports of rape, aggravated assault and arson were made. Overall sex offenses climbed to five compared to two in 2010.

There were 39 larcenies reported to the Department of Public Safety during 2011, the

report said. Theft accounted for 83 percent of all property crimes. Thefts occurred all across campus, the annual report said, listing the Student Recreation Center-North as having the most, with six. Kent Library was second with four, with the rest fairly evenly distributed.

Seven theft reports came with losses of more than $500, the report said, and 32 were misdemeanor offenses. Property crime consisted of 96 percent within the most serious category.

Richards said such offenses are common because they are crimes of opportunity. Several thefts took place with little or no force used to enter vehicles, student rooms and buildings.

Other data included in the report revealed 10 acts of vandalism, one charge of harassment and three cases of trespassing.

Driving while intoxicated accounted for 18 percent of those types secondary crimes. Narcotics violations made up 13 percent of these Part II crimes; liquor violations made up 11 percent, the report showed. Four common assaults, in which no weapon was used, also were listed.

A separate category in the report lists student-conduct violations, which are governed by a student code of conduct. In 2011, 172 written reports were made alleging violations. Richards' department issued 228 disciplinary notices to students suspected of violating the code. The vast majority of those, 139, were for liquor violations.

But Richards cited recent efforts by law enforcement to step up enforcement of underage drinking prohibitions and an increased police presence at area bars to watch for those with fake IDs. The city government is considering new regulations to curb underage drinking, such as requiring those under 21 to vacate bars earlier.

Other improvements have been made in recent years, Richards said, such as the installation of closed-circuit cameras, better lighting and emergency call buttons so officers can be alerted more quickly.

Two who have served as Cape Girardeau's police chief also pointed out that university officers are well trained as a contributing factor in keeping the campus relatively safe.

"They've got some quality individuals up there," said Carl Kinnison, who retired form his chief position to teach criminal justice at the university. "Their people are very high quality."

Interim chief Roger Fields said campus police have the authority to arrest, write summonses and other authority afforded municipal cops.

"I know the university has worked hard to increase the security up there," Fields said. "I'd feel relatively safe letting my kids go there."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

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