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Police, community and students discuss safety

Abi Hoverman | Thursday, September 1, 2011

With the football season fast approaching, students and community members had the opportunity to ask a panel of police representatives questions concerning underage drinking, safety and off-campus parties at the annual Student Safety Summit Wednesday.

“We really do want students to know that we are really concerned for their safety, and police departments are concerned for your safety,” Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) Sergeant Keri Kei Shibata said.

The Safety Summit, which featured the Saint Joseph County Sheriff and representatives from NDSP, the South Bend Police Department and the Indiana Excise Police, emphasized cooperation between the University and police enforcement.

“How the police treat you will be dictated by how you treat the police, ” St. Joseph County Sheriff Mike Grzegorek said.

NDSP Assistant Director Dave Chapman said students play an important role in safety on campus.

“Take care of each other … If you see something out of the ordinary call us,” he said. “We’d rather show up for 99 false alarms than miss one real one.”

Chapman said students also can prevent most on-campus crime by locking their doors and not letting strangers into their dorms, as almost all thefts do not involve forced entry.

“Notre Dame students are the nicest around … [Burglars] just stand outside the door until a student comes up to swipe their card, they say their girlfriend lives inside,” Chapman said. “Then they go in and try doors until they find one that’s unlocked.”

Chapman also said if someone needs medical attention or if a sexual assault has occurred, underage students should not hesitate to call NDSP.

“We don’t care about your intoxication, we care about getting you help,” Chapman said.

Members of the panel said students also put themselves at risk by walking at night. Taking a taxi is always safer than being on foot, as intoxicated students make easy targets, they said.

“Criminals in town know the routes home from bars and parties,” Shibata said. “They may be hanging out in those areas waiting.”

Members of the panel said if walking is the only option, never do it alone, and if confronted by a stranger, avoid acting scared.

“Look them in the eye, don’t let them make you look intimidated,” South Bend Police Department Division Chief Jeffrey Walters said.

All of the police departments emphasized the importance of positive relationships with students, saying Notre Dame parties and students are not targeted on purpose. Walters said South Bend Police always go to parties in response to neighbor complaints.

“We’d rather be doing other things,” Walters said.

Although with the upcoming football game, many students may be suspicious of the Excise Police, Indiana Excise Police Sgt. Aly Taylor said they are not targeting the University, just doing their job.

“We’re not here to pick on Notre Dame,” Taylor said. “We are here to regulate and enforce tobacco and alcohol laws for the state of Indiana.”

The panel urged underage students to be honest and upfront with the police.

“Don’t flee,” Taylor said. “Don’t lock the door. Don’t hide inside for three hours.”

Respectful students are more likely to get off with a warning, and failing to cooperate by either lying about identification or trying to flee make programs that can clear criminal records impossible, Gregorek said.

“Your best bet is to admit your wrongdoing because lying makes it worse,” Grzegorek said.

As the first game of the season approaches, Grzegorek said it is important for students to remember they represent the University.

“Notre Dame has a lot of tradition,” he said. “You guys have a lot of responsibility in maintaining Notre Dame’s name.”