Summit urges student caution
Maddie Daly | Thursday, August 30, 2012
Students at Wednesday’s Student Safety Summit talked with local and campus police officers about how to be safe both on and off campus.
All seven officers at the summit, representatives from Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and the South Bend Police Department (SPBD), stressed the importance of sticking with friends from the beginning of the night to the end.
NDSP Deputy Chief Dave Chapman said walking alone is a recipe for crime, especially at night. South Bend is not a bad place to live, he said, but every city has dangerous citizens against whom residents need to protect themselves.
“It’s just the perfect target for some people in South Bend whose lifetime goal it is to rob someone,” Chapman said.
On campus, Chapman said there has never been forced entry during a robbery in residence halls across campus. Dorm robberies occur when students simply leave their doors open with valuables in sight, Chapman said.
“The only way to prevent crime from happening on campus is for you guys to help each other,” he said.
Students can be vigilant and avoid crime on campus by locking doors, walking in groups and using common sense, Chapman said.
Sgt. Ally Taylor of the Indiana State Excise Police explained while most police officers cover a single town, city or county, her fellow officers have jurisdiction over 12 counties.
“Our goal is to look for criminal activity and minors in possession of alcohol,” Taylor said.
Students at the Summit expressed curiosity about the Excise Police, asking specific questions about alcohol laws. For instance, a minor riding in a car with alcohol does not break any laws as long as he or she is not physically touching or in possession of it, Taylor said.
Law enforcers also pay attention to some little-known state laws and encourage students to become familiar with them as well, no matter how unusual they may seem. St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Tamashasky said one “crazy Indiana state law” is one preventing people under age 21 from driving a person older than 21 who has been drinking.
But the No. 1 problem for authorities is when students talk back, claiming to know more about the law than the officers themselves.
Chapman said most arrests carried out by police around campus occur due to rude and irreverent behavior toward the law enforcement officials.
“Believe it or not, police do have discretion,” Chapman said.
If respect is upheld on both ends, Taylor said students could maintain a mutually friendly relationship with authorities.
“As long as you are respectful, you will get respect back,” she said.
At the end of the discussion, SBPD Capt. Scott Ruszkowski said students should be smart when considering personal safety.
“Common sense is going to be the No. 1 lifesaver you have,” he said.
After thanking the officers and emphasizing the growing relationship between the police force and Notre Dame’s student government, student body vice president Katie Rose concluded the summit with some advice for students.
“We’re inviting ourselves into South Bend as guests,” she said. “Be good neighbors.”