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Increased Security presence disturbs Cleveland residents

With an increase in security presence and arrival of police in Cleveland Hall, the south campus dorm’s tight knit community has been left largely confused.

At around 1:30 a.m., Monday, March 30, Director of Security Stephen Briscoe called the Grinnell Police Department to report a cigarette size burn in the Cleveland lounge carpet, according to a Grinnell Police report. Officers Mike Dickenson and David Menninga arrived at Cleveland Hall and proceeded to investigate the lounge. During their investigation, they found a bag of marijuana.

As part of nightly rounds, on-duty security guards had gone into Cleveland lounge and found the cigarette burn in the carpet, cigarette butts on tables and the ground, and a burnt piece of paper in the computer lab. After the security guards notified Briscoe, he called the fire department.

“With the intention of burning in the area … we were concerned about [people] being in an area where a fire could possibly start,” Briscoe said.

After reaching the dispatcher, the call was forwarded to the police department. “Since it wasn’t burning at that time,” Briscoe said, “the police department came over to investigate.”

When Security and the police officers examined the lounge, they came across a bag of marijuana beside a MacBook computer on a table. “Then it became a criminal matter with the marijuana,” Briscoe said.

Along with the marijuana, the officers confiscated various items of students from the lounge. Police searched for the owner of the MacBook with the intent of finding the person who possessed the marijuana. When they found out that the computer belonged to Akshay Bajaj ’12, they questioned Cleveland hall residents about his whereabouts.

“I live across the hall from him [Bajaj],” said Julia Gerasimenko ’12. “They went in and shone a light in his roommate’s face, and were like, ‘Where’s your roommate? Who does he usually hang out with?’”

Although the officers did not speak with Bajaj, they did not leave without encountering complaints from Cleveland hall residents.
“[The officers] also got into a bit of tiff with other people because they were looking to get their things back,” Gerasimenko said. “They [the residents] didn’t want their things confiscated just because they were in the lounge.”

Officers Dickenson and Menninga could not be reached for comment. Their supervising officer, Sgt. Chris Wray of the Grinnell Police Department, also declined to comment at this time because the investigation is still ongoing.

When Bajaj returned to Cleveland the next morning, he found out that his computer was confiscated by security.

“That night I was in Cleveland lounge till about 10 p.m. and I left my computer there, as I usually do and then I left to go to Rose with my friend [Isaac Garcia Molina] and I just stayed there for the rest of the night, I did some work, and I just fell asleep,” he said.

After being held by security, Bajaj’s computer was returned to him. “That my computer was in that space does not mean that I was related to or had anything to do with that bag of weed,” Bajaj said.

The identity of the person whom the marijuana belongs to is still unknown. “The investigation is ongoing. I won’t say exactly where we are with that investigation,” Briscoe said. “The police are investigating too.”

The security officer that happened upon the cigarettes in the first place was part of an increase in security patrols in Cleveland Hall. According to Briscoe, the increased presence of security in Cleveland is due to complaints about cigarette smoking.

“We had been down there a number of times before, but we’ve gotten complaints just lately … again in that particular area [Cleveland 1st lounge],” Briscoe said. “And so we started going to that area on a regular basis and then when we saw what was going on, the cigarette burns, the burning, we’re like ‘oh god, we do have to be in here to keep checking this, until we can get on top of this before it gets worse and fires do occur.’”

Cleveland hall resident Cecilia Darby ’12 said that the security presence has stretched beyond merely routine checks. “I was woken up at three in the morning by a security radio outside my door because they saw my pet rats and thought they were wild rats,” Darby said in a phone interview with the S&B. “Anyway, it was just like a very strange invasion of our privacy to be up on our floor at three in the morning. He woke a bunch of people up.”

Cleveland third student advisor Kelly Musselman ’11 expressed concern about security’s increased attention directed towards Cleveland. “The amount of complaints that Student Affairs has said that they received [regarding cigarettes] wasn’t conveyed to the SAs at a self-govern level,” said Musselman, in a phone interview with the S&B. “Basically, we’re just really upset that the magnitude wasn’t expressed to us and we could have done something, and we’re annoyed that they had to resort to this level to patrol us.”

Briscoe said he hopes that students and security can reach a solution to halt cigarette smoking indoors and decrease the presence of security in the dorm. “We’re hoping that the students will work with us to come up with a solution … so we don’t have to go over there anymore,” Briscoe said.

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