By Tom Ballard
The College recently released its annual Security and Fire Safety Report for the year of 2014, published on Thursday, Oct. 1. The report contains crime and fire statistics taken by Campus Police and student-reported incidents from the past three years.
Burglaries, which are considered to be the unlawful entry into any structure to commit a crime, according to the report, have dropped from 12 reported cases in 2013 to only one in 2014.
Violations of drug laws that led to disciplinary actions or conduct referrals boomed from 50 in 2013 to 115 in 2014.
“This year’s report reflects an increase in drug law violations, which were almost exclusively for marijuana,” said John Collins, chief of Campus Police and director of security at the College. “Nationwide the use of marijuana has been trending upwards since 2007.”
According to Collins, the College has partnered with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office to provide training to residence staff about how to identify the odor of marijuana, which may have also led to an increase in calls concerning the usage of the drug.
“We have expanded our community policing initiatives to improve our services and the quality of our interaction with the public,” said Collins in the report. “Some of these changes are increased foot and bicycle patrols, improved officers’ training and partnering with… TCNJ EMS… to enhance medical response on campus.”
The College saw three instances of sex offenses reported to campus authorities in the previous year along with one case of domestic violence and dating violence, which refers to a crime committed by a person who is or has been in “a relationship of romantic or intimate nature with the victim.”
One hate crime was reported in 2014, according to the report, which was in the form of on-campus vandalism with racial bias. There were no instances of hate crimes reported in the other two years covered in the report, 2013 and 2012.
Last year there were 85 arrests due to violation of liquor laws mentioned in the report, of which 51 occurred in residence halls. These numbers are slightly down from the 110 arrests for liquor law violations in 2013.
“Overall, the Clery statistics show that we have a very safe campus,” Collins said. “My department plays a proactive role in this and when we see potential trends developing, we address them.”
Collins noted that these numbers in the report should be examined carefully. He detailed that in 2013 there was an instance where one college-owned off-campus residence was broken into. Objects were stolen from six different rooms and the College had to report it as six different burglaries to comply with the Clery Act, whereas, in uniform crime reporting, the event would have been considered one incident.
“We are gratified that our safety record is so good,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said in the report. “TCNJ’s goal is… to create an environment where all community members feel comfortable in reporting concerns and everyone knows that a safe community is… the result of the entire campus working together.”
Collins advises students to secure their items in their residences and to not leave them unattended in public.
“They’re crimes of opportunity,” Collins said. “If you take away the opportunity the crime doesn’t occur.”
Cromwell and Eickhoff residence halls were the only two buildings at the College last year that experienced reported fires. An unintentional smoking material/trash fire in Cromwell and an unintentional grease fire in Eickhoff were reported. Damages totaled $1,922, according to the report.
In order to increase fire safety, the College is required to have four fire drills per residence hall throughout the year, during which each room is examined by the Department of Residential Education and Housing to confirm compliance of fire safety policy.
The College released the information in the report in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act which mandates that the College collects and reports all crimes that occur on campus in an annual security report that is made available to the public.
“We remain committed to ensure that the services we provide to the community equal the quality of the education here at TCNJ,” Collins said.
For those interested, the full report can be found on the Campus Police’s website at campuspolice.tcnj.edu.