High crime a concern for dorm residents


High crime a concern for dorm residents


By: Ben Briscoe, Contributing Writer, bbriscoe@smu.edu
Posted: 4/25/07
First-year Weston Ashley went out to benches in front of his residence hall, Mary Hay, at 2 a.m. on the night of Oct. 12, 2006 to get his last nicotine fix before heading to bed, like he had done so many times before.

But this night was different.

As he sat alone in the cold air listening to The Killers on his iPod, a man Ashley had never seen before walked up to the four empty benches and sat down right beside him.

"At first I didn't think anything of it," Ashley said. "He just asked me if he could buy a cigarette from me, and I said no and gave him one instead."

The two then chatted for about 10 minutes about the lack of diversity at SMU before Ashley caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of something alarming.

"I remember turning to him and sticking out of his big puffy jacket was a butcher knife," Ashley said. "I just pretty much froze. In my head I was like, 'Oh my God, I am gonna die.'"

But Ashley's nerves calmed, and his instincts kicked in. He quickly told the man goodnight and then walked briskly, "hell almost running," to his room and called the police.

About 20 minutes later police caught up with the man. He was holding another student by knifepoint outside of the Owen Fine Arts building.

While the man was quickly taken to the Dallas County Jail, the memory still lingers in Ashley's mind.

"Every once and a while I will think about it, and my heart will skip a couple of beats," he said. "You feel you're so safe because we live in this Highland Park bubble where everything is so nice and pretty and clean, but the truth is that we're not safer here than anywhere else. It's a hard thing to realize."

That's exactly how Virginia Tech Wildlife Science major Danielle Kulas said she felt after the shootings last Monday.

"I just remember thinking at first that April Fools Day had already gone by. I couldn't believe this was happening here," she said. "The part that really baffled me was when I found out the first shooting was in the dorm right next to mine."

The reason Kulas said she had a hard time believing that the shootings were happening was because her dorms had seemed so safe until then.

According to VT's police crime logs, fewer serious crimes (such as murder, sex offenses, robbery, assault, theft and arson) occurred in the Tech's residential facilities in 2005, the last year with data available, than SMU's residential facilities have had in the last three months. In the whole of 2005, there were seven forcible sex offenses, 11 burglaries and seven cases of arson for a total of 25 incidents at VT's dorms. Since Jan. 1, SMU's residential halls have been the site of five assaults, 20 thefts, one arson and three criminal trespasses for a total of 29.

For Jeanie Goodson, mother of incoming first-year Caroline, it's those numbers and last Monday's event at Virginia Tech that are causing her to worry about her child living by herself in the fall.

"I would not say I am petrified about sending my girl off to college, but after Virginia Tech, her safety next year has been on my mind a lot," Goodson said. "But you can't keep your child in a Zip-lock bag; the best thing I can do is to tell her to be careful and hope for the best."

That's exactly the policy that Residence Life and Student Housing Director Doug Hallenbeck likes to stress.

"It's a unique and difficult balance between safety and security and being more of a jail state," Hallenbeck said. "People don't want to live where RAs are going in daily to do room checks, so we have to balance that sense of home with a sense of security."

To do that, the university utilizes two main methods: a card-swipe access restriction to residents only and a staff of residential advisers and professionals who keep an eye out for any abnormalities.

For Ashley, these systems are good, but they aren't enough.

"I think that really helps. But no matter how much we try to prevent crime, people are people and they will find a way," he said. "Just keep an eye out for anything strange. It's the best way to stay safe. I mean it saved my life and someday it might save yours."

Since the Virginia Tech shooting, the university has taken new measures to improve the safety of the campus. On Friday, a campus-wide e-mail asked students to update their Emergency Contact information and add their cell phone numbers. In the event of an emergency, a voicemail will be left on cell phones, in addition to a bulk e-mail and Web site updates.

General information about SMUs emergency procedures is available at http://www.smu.edu/newsinfo/preparedness/.


Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.smudailycampus.com/media/storage/paper949/news/2007/04/25/News/High-Crime.A.Concern.For.Dorm.Residents-2879050.shtml>SMU Daily Campus - April 25, 2007</a>


Ben Briscoe


SMU Daily Campus




Sara Hood


"Norris, Mark William" <mnorris@mail.smu.edu>




Ben Briscoe, “High crime a concern for dorm residents,” The April 16 Archive, accessed October 16, 2019, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1212.