In 2012, there were 375 aggregated assaults, 149 auto thefts, 816 burglaries, 11 murders and 185 armed robberies in Kalamazoo, according to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety’s website.
While most of these offenses occurred off campus, crimes involving students seemed to be on the rise last year, and a few incidents on campus caused quite a scare among WMU students.
In a WesternHerald.com survey following the events, 50 percent of students said they did not feel safe on campus at all, and only 22 percent of students who answered the survey said they felt that campus was safe. Others felt safe with other students, or on certain parts on campus at certain times of day.
Blaine Kalafut, Deputy Chief of WMU’s Department of Public Safety said although the crime rate on campus seems to be on the rise due to recent events, the Campus Police are doing everything in their power to make students feel safe on campus.
Several students feel that they feel campus and the surrounding community is safe during the day, but are wary about walking home and to their cars at night.
“The campus is usually pretty deserted at night. With it being dark, it makes it easier for crime to happen and no one is around to help if something were to happen,” said Ashley Fenimore, a senior finance major.
Kalafut said students should never be afraid to call the police at any time of day, no matter how silly they may feel about the call.
“There’s no such thing as a stupid call. That’s what we’re here for,” said Kalafut. “Students should be sure to call immediately after an incident, not wait until they get home.”
Kalafut said the sooner they receive the call, the easier it is to catch the suspect.
Given the recent armed robberies on campus, students have been extra cautious when walking in the dark.
Some students said they felt the need to carry weapons such as mace and brass knuckles to defend themselves in the event of an attack.
“Although it is legal to carry mace in the state of Michigan, it is a student code violation on campus,” said Kalafut. If a student were to use mace on campus, they would be in violation of the university’s weapon policy. Brass knuckles are illegal everywhere and are not permitted on campus.
“If someone approaches you and asks for your money, don’t argue. It’s not worth getting hurt over,” said Kalafut. Kalafut said it is important that students in these situations try their hardest to get a clothing description and direction of travel and call the police immediately.
“I haven’t felt safe since the on-campus robberies two years ago,” said Marlee Shifman, a senior Film Video and Media studies. Many interviewed students had forgotten about the robberies Shifman referred to, which happened in December 2010, just a week over two years before this year’s robberies.
Kalafut said that prior to the robberies in 2010, it had been almost 30 years since an armed robbery had occurred on campus.
He also wished to emphasize the fact that since the robberies, all three parties – two Kalamazoo Valley Community College students and one WMU student – involved have been found and arrested.
Besides the armed robberies, however, Kalafut said the crimes on campus this year have not been random attacks, for the most part.
“This past semester our assaults have gone up, but it’s people who know each other,” he said. “Domestic abuse, roommates and friends fighting. That kind of thing. The good thing is that it doesn’t affect the general population.”
One domestic disturbance that shook the WMU community was the murder of Luke Vincent, a member of WMU’s Delta Chi fraternity. According to Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Vincent’s roommate, Brian Peterson is accused of killing the 24 year-old by striking him in the head with a barbell in order to break up a fight with Vincent and his girlfriend.
Kalafut said that despite the major crimes involving students, the majority of campus crime is theft.
“Students need to be more vigilant. Don’t leave your laptop on the desk when you go to the bathroom at the library. Don’t be too trusting,” he said. “Call when it happens, not three to four hours after.”
If students are still worried about being assaulted on campus, Kalafut recommends walking in groups of at least two people and reporting any lighting or safety issues to the police so they can be resolved. If students cannot find a friend to walk home or to their car with, he suggests they call safe ride at (269) 387-RIDE.