Grinnell experiences spike in crime

Over+the+past+weekend%2C+vandals+broke+multiple+windows+in+cars+belonging+to+students+living+off-campus%2C+and+in+other+campus+residential+buildings.%0A%0APhoto+by+Parker+Van+Nostrand.+

Over the past weekend, vandals broke multiple windows in cars belonging to students living off-campus, and in other campus residential buildings. Photo by Parker Van Nostrand.

Punctuated by a series of shattered windows, stolen bikes and an incident of arson on campus, Grinnell College has experienced a sharp uptick in the number of on-campus incidents being reported over the past semester, compared with reports from previous years.

The spike in reported vandalism and thefts has caused concern among campus residents and has prompted Campus Security staff members to encourage Grinnellians to be more aware and conscious of common crime-deterrent tactics, and to assist them in creating a safer space on the College campus.

Director of Security Stephen Briscoe noted in a Campus Memo sent out on Tuesday, Dec. 2 that there have been 10 incidents of theft and vandalism since Tuesday, Nov. 18—a significant increase in comparison with the same period in the fall of 2013. Briscoe added that over the past weekend, there was a spate of windows and doors being broken on North campus and car windows and loggia windows being smashed on South campus. He stated that such incidents are worrisome because they make community members feel unsafe.

“These incidents do impact the way that people feel—people take it very personally,” Briscoe said. “It does impact them when it makes them feel unsafe. When these kinds of incidents happen, we want to do all we can to make sure that students, faculty and staff feel safe here and deter these kinds of crimes that are going on.”

A broken loggia window in South campus was part of a series of property vandalism incidents this week. Photo by Sydney Steinle.
A broken loggia window in South campus was part of a series of property vandalism incidents this week.
Photo by Sydney Steinle.

Briscoe added that Campus Security relies on student security members and encourage students to help prevent further incidents and to deter crime and theft. He mentioned that bicycle theft is also a common occurrence and typically occurs when bikes are unlocked or locked with flimsy chain locks. Similarly, thieves often take advantage of unlocked rooms and facilitated access into residence halls.

“We’re not in a bubble. People still come through here who are not students, and I’m not saying these crimes are committed by non-students, but we’re in a public area where the public comes through, and it could be people who come here looking for crimes of opportunity,” he said. “Usually when people are stealing things out of the residence halls, they’re taking stuff from unlocked rooms.”

Briscoe urged students to continue to lock their rooms, which he said is a significant deterrent to theft. He also asked students to report people conducting suspicious activity to Campus Security right away, particularly in light of the recent incident of arson reported on East campus. Briscoe stated that such situations, especially those involving fire, can be incredibly dangerous, even if they seem harmless.

“You just don’t want to play around with that fire. That’s very dangerous stuff,” he said. “If we find out it’s someone within our College who may have done it, we try to get them some help so they don’t commit stuff like that.”

For alleged arson incidents similar to the one reported early Wednesday morning, Briscoe stated that Campus Security will communicate with the fire department through Poweshiek County, and that members of the police force will arrive as well to conduct an independent investigation. Further, Briscoe explained the process through which a Grinnell student may be charged, in both the criminal and College judicial systems.

“If there’s reason for a criminal arrest, the police will file charges, and we file campus conduct charges on behalf of the College through the College judicial program,” he said.

Several students spoke to security and are in the process of filing witness reports with the police about incidents of vandalism that affected them over the past weekend.

“I woke up, this was Sunday morning that I found it, and … my back driver’s window is the one that they had basically knocked out entirely, then my wallet was taken,” said Emily Hackman ’16, who lives on East Street.

Hackman reported the incident to Security and is in the process of making time to go to the Grinnell Police Department to file a witness statement. Jack Dunnington ’16’s car was also broken into, though nothing was stolen. Dunnington also filed a police report and spoke to Campus Security, who had already arrived on the scene when Dunnington saw his car.

Neither Dunnington nor Hackman think there is evidence to suggest that the perpetrator is definitively a Grinnell student or a townsperson, though Hackman said that her wallet was visible from outside the car and was likely the motivation for the break-in.

Hackman and Dunnington also do not think this should be taken as a violation of self-governance.

“This is so large scale,” Dunnington said. “Self-gov has been shown a lot this past weekend in the reactions of people who were not part of it at all, people offering help, offering advice, both material and just emotional support.”

Over the past weekend, vandals broke multiple windows in cars belonging to students living off-campus, and in other campus residential buildings. Photo by Parker Van Nostrand.
Over the past weekend, vandals broke multiple windows in cars belonging to students living off-campus, and in other campus residential buildings.
Photo by Parker Van Nostrand.