A student’s guide to crime around campus

Michael J. Collins, City Reporter

During October, 20 vehicle break-ins and bike thefts occurred on or around campus, according to Melissa Bailey, WKUPD’s public information officer.

Bailey said many of these thefts allegedly trace back to two individuals arrested on Oct. 28.

So far in November, WKUPD has reported only one theft — a student’s bike tires.

The situation highlights the ever-changing nature of crime that students face and the importance of taking precautions before crime strikes.

But in order to take precautions, students have to know what to look out for.

Thefts and Break-ins

Bailey said that car break-ins and bike thefts are among the most common crimes students encounter.

Many break-ins occur within parking structures around campus, and Bailey said they’re often the most difficult to solve.

“You have hundreds of cars you can check through in a parking structure,” Bailey said. “Most of the time they’re not smashing windows, they’re just ‘fishing’ — checking door handles.”

While most exits and entrances are monitored with cameras, many parking structure floors lack surveillance to capture would-be criminals.

Bailey said even if cameras were installed, it could still be difficult to identify thieves due to cars obstructing the view and poor lighting. While WKUPD monitors the cameras, their placement and installation are decided by WKU’s IT department.

Bailey said that locking doors and removing backpacks and valuables from cars eliminates the risk from the start, and it’s likewise important that bikes are locked correctly.

“They might just be putting [the lock] through the tire and then the rack, so someone can just take the front tire off and then take the whole bike,” Bailey said.

Students should use a thick, metal lock, such as a U-lock, to attach the frame of the bike to the rack, Bailey said.

Ronnie Ward, Bowling Green Police Department’s information officer, said outdoor thefts slightly decrease during winter months. However, students are still susceptible to theft while partying or hosting.

Ward said thefts, assaults and sexual assault are always a risk in a party setting where people may be intoxicated.

“If you go to or [are] having a party, have somebody with you that’s going to stay sober,” Ward said. “Someone that’s going to help you get home and keep an eye on everybody at the party so that things don’t get out of control.”

Drugs and Overdoses

Bailey said that in recent weeks, WKUPD has seen a slight uptick in alcohol-related medical assistance calls.

Though not an alarming increase, Bailey said a variety of sources could lead to excessive drinking this time of year, including stress from exams or visiting family for the holidays.

WKUPD responds to cannabis reports in residence halls on occasion, though rarely for medical assistance.

“It goes all over the building,” Bailey said. “It’s one big ventilation system, everyone knows you’re doing it.”

Ward said students should also be aware of the risk of fentanyl lacing in illicit drugs.

In the last two weeks, BGPD has encountered six overdoses of fentanyl, one of whom was a 17-year-old.

“You can put a lethal dose of fentanyl on the end of a pencil,” Ward said. “You can have that in anything. And so a lot of people will smoke weed with it laced with it, they’ll take a pill that’s laced with it, they may use methamphetamine that’s laced with it.”

Ward said fentanyl is commonly added to other drugs because it’s cheap and produces a more intense high. It can be pressed into counterfeit pills to lower costs or added to cannabis to make it more addictive.

Beginning January 1, medical cannabis will be legal in Kentucky for individuals with severe conditions, but Ward says there’s a large difference between what you buy from a dealer versus a pharmacy.

“To say, ‘well, marijuana is safe, we can use it now,’ that’s not necessarily so,” Ward said. “It changes hands one time and you don’t know what’s in it, and you don’t know what your friends put in it.”

Non-students on campus

In October 2021, a 30-year-old non-student entered several residence halls on campus, leading to concerns over building security. 

That same month, two non-students were removed from campus for pressuring a female student to get in their car.

Bailey said WKU is an open campus and can’t unnecessarily prevent people from entering, but individuals who have been seen trying to enter residence halls without permission are usually banned from campus.

Emergency phones are available around campus should students need an escort or assistance.

Following the residence hall intrusions, Bailey said front desk workers received more instruction on what to do when an unidentified individual attempts to enter a building. WKUPD has only received a handful of calls in recent months.

“From what I’ve seen, the students at the front desks are doing a pretty darn good job of calling the police now, saying ‘we didn’t let this person in, they’re trying to get in, I don’t recognize them’,” Bailey said.

City reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected].