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Clery notices spark increased safety concerns, security

Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly addresses Grinnellians in JRC 101 on Thursday about the recent Clery incidents. Photo by Jeff Li

Yishi Liang, Editor-in-Chief & Nora Coghlan, News Editor &

Since Feb. 24, five Clery reports have been issued to the Grinnell community, detailing two instances of indecent exposure, two of students being filmed in the shower and one of assault and intimidation of a student outside Bucksbaum. A forum was held on Thursday, March 10, in response to these events to inform students about safety measures being taken and take suggestions for further action.

“Obviously this is an issue that’s of great concern to the community and the goal is for all the people who are deeply involved in our response as a community to give you information about what’s happening and how we’re responding and what you can do as well,” said President Raynard Kington during the forum.

Since these incidents, several measures have been taken to increase security on campus. Grinnell police will be patrolling the campus and additional security forces from an independent company have been hired to patrol campus loggias from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day. Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly stressed that students need to be aware of their environment, and if they suspect suspicious activity they should immediately contact the Grinnell Police Department (GPD).

“Be aware of your surroundings. If you see something that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up at the very least it’s a phone call to security. … I would prefer that you call 911 if you think it’s a true emergency,” Reilly said during the forum.

Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly addresses Grinnellians in JRC 101 on Thursday about the recent Clery incidents.  Photo by Jeff Li
Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly addresses Grinnellians in JRC 101 on Thursday about the recent Clery incidents. Photo by Jeff Li

GPD is currently investigating all incidents and has one person of interest in mind that they believe to be involved in the indecent exposure incidents in the South Campus loggia. The suspect is not a member of the Grinnell College community.

“That person was issued a no trespassing order, so if they are found on campus, they would be arrested for trespass[ing] and we’re trying to build the case to be able to charge them,” Reilly said.

Although this person of interest is forbidden from Grinnell’s campus, the GPD is unable to release any information about the identity of the suspect, including photos.

“I think its difficult because a lot of you won’t know who that person is because they’re not associated with the Grinnell community,” Reilly said in interview after the forum. “For that particular guy [an image cannot be released] because that is still an active ongoing investigation and he is only what I will describe as a person of interest. He has not been charged with anything, so he’s an innocent person at this point, so to speak.”

There are no suspects in the instances of students being filmed in showers or in the assault of the student outside of Bucksbaum. GPD has yet to announce if they believe the assailant is a part of the campus or greater Grinnell community. 

“The police department is not going to focus their attention solely on the Grinnell College community. I think that would be shortsighted on our part. Our minds are open and we’re going to take the investigation wherever it points us,” Reilly said during the forum.

Additionally, according to Jim Reische, Vice President of Communications, the race of any perpetuators would not be included in Clery reports as this could potentially be a vehicle for profiling and is not as helpful for identifying suspects.

While many measures have been taken to increase safety, students at the forum felt that even more steps could be taken to ensure that all members of the community feel safe. Suggestions from the audience included increasing security outside of Main Hall during public events, hiring added security past 7 p.m., adding more blue lights on campus, offering self defense classes for students and even providing students with pepper spray.

Perhaps the most debated potential safety measure was the suggestion to place cameras in and around campus loggias. According to Kington and SGA President Dan Davis, several students have already requested placing cameras around campus.

“We have talked about possibly getting temporary cameras for the loggias at least, but we did not want to act upon that before seeing what the student body felt,” Davis said during the forum.

Those leading the discussion stressed that the cameras would only be a temporary measure, but the administration would decide when to put up cameras and when to take them down.

“It would be a college policy, and we haven’t started, [but] there have been a number of people who have suggested it already. We didn’t do it because we felt that was a pretty significant step,” Kington said. “If we were to do it we’d have a discussion about when to stop it but ultimately the administration would have to chose when to stop it just as we would have to chose when to start it, but we wouldn’t do it arbitrarily.”

Several students expressed concern that these cameras would be used to monitor student behavior and would infringe on student privacy. Still, Davis and Dean of Students Sarah Moschenross insisted that camera footage would only be used if Clery incidents occurred. However, if other illegal activity is caught on tape, administrators are required to take action.

“If there happens to be a Clery incident outside of Cleveland and we are accessing footage and there happens to be a kid smoking a bong in the middle of the loggia, then that will be addressed, as we have become aware of it, but we will not be accessing that footage just willy-nilly because we feel like it might be a safety precaution,” Davis said in interview after the forum.

“If in the course that a crime was happening and we access that footage to review the crime footage, … we see other crimes happening we have to, we would have to consult with other administration how to handle that but we can’t in good faith ignore illegal behavior,” Moschenross added. 

Despite all the instances of violence on campus, Reilly wanted to stress that Grinnell is a safe community.

“One thing I highlight in that report is crimes against persons in Grinnell [are] extremely low. Our biggest issue in Grinnell are property crimes,” Reilly said. “Grinnell is a safe community, but just like every other community in this country there are blips on the radar that come up every once in a while that we need to address, we need to be aware of. … What I’m here to reinforce is that we’re serious about it, we’re concerned about it, we’re looking into it, but let’s try and keep some level heads here.”

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  • K

    K Gibel MevorachMar 12, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Only racecraft would turn a physical description of a person into race as label or personal possession. In a town that is hardly the poster model for visible cosmopolitan diversity, either in the human spectrum of physical features or identifiable markers of national origin, profiling already has happened in the disingenious claim that the “race” — presumably meant as a reference to skin color” — of the suspect is not going to be disclosed to the public. We already have been told about a white male suspect – was this a reference to his (male) racial identity or information like hair and eye color? The distinction does matter.