Officials discuss dorm safety issues

Caitlin Carter

While Jami Fuller and her roommate were sleeping one night earlier this semester, two men dressed in dark clothing entered their unlocked Pearce-Ford Tower dorm room.

“I heard noises, so I immediately got up and was freaked out and ordered them to leave,” said Fuller, a freshman from Hendersonville, Tenn.


She said the intruders left without stealing anything, but it was a startling experience that made her more aware of security threats on campus.

Fuller, secretary for the Residence Hall Association, attended Tuesday evening’s “town hall” meeting about dorm safety.

In 2009, police received reports of 79 counts of burglary and 197 counts of larceny on WKU’s main campus, according to the 2010 campus crime report.

Those numbers have caused concern in campus police, Housing and Residence Life officials and students living in dorms, said Ricky Powell, staff services sergeant for campus police.

Burglary occurs on campus when a perpetrator enters a dorm room and steals something, while larceny is a theft outside of the room, in a common area, said Joe Harbaugh, professional standards commander for campus police.

Many thefts, inside and outside of the dorm room, are crimes of opportunity, Powell said.

“None of our reports are of forced entry,” Powell said. “Students need to get in the habit of locking their doors. We could cut the burglary rate down to basically nothing if people would lock their doors.”

In cases of larceny, students should use extra caution in securing their belongings in public places, he said.

Powell said he also recommends that students record personal items’ serial numbers so police can determine property owners.

Many times, items reported as stolen are either recovered or turned in to lost and found, he said.

“People do bring things to lost and found,” Powell said. “For every dishonest person there is out there, there are two honest ones.”

Powell said students should report any suspicious activity across campus immediately.

Assistant HRL Director Steve Briggs said at the meeting that students should be especially aware of odd behaviors in dorms.

“Students should be aware of their neighbors and their belongings and try to protect them better,” Briggs said. “Lack of action is a cause of theft.”

Briggs said in many instances, students actually see crimes take place but don’t report them.

“A common phrase we hear on campus is, ‘I don’t want to be a narc,'” he said. “That’s a high school mentality.”

In order to increase security, campus police have begun to patrol hallways of dorms, Powell said.

“We’re trying to make our presence known,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to see zero thefts, but in the real world that will probably never happen.”