Increasing safety for Washburn students

Amy Reinhardt

To ensure their safety, Topeka residents and Washburn students alike should exercise additional safety tactics to steer clear of hazardous situations to avoid landing in harm’s way.

The Clery Act, a law requiring colleges and universities receiving federal funding to disclose reported instances of criminal activity on their campuses in a timely manner, is followed on Washburn’s campus.

Each year, the campus releases an Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report. This report contains information regarding alcohol and drug policies, annual crime and fire statistics, sex offense policies and other emergency notifications.

The 2014 report will be released in early October of this year. The reports are released a year behind so to create built-in time to conduct investigations.

According to the Washburn University Police Campus Crime Notifications: Off-Campus Safety Bulletin, a robbery occurred around midnight on July 17 in the Washburn Place apartment complex located at 1900 S.W. Washburn Ave.

According to an online statement, Chris Enos, captain of the Washburn University Police Department, states the suspect approached the victim’s apartment and asked to use their restroom.

Once inside the suspect demanded money and other forms of property from the victim. The suspect stated he had a firearm, but the firearm was never displayed during the incident.

The suspect fled the scene on an unknown color of mountain bike after taking several items from the victim. The report notes that it does not appear the suspect was ever present on Washburn’s campus.

The statement on the Safety Bulletin describes the suspect as a white male with brown hair standing at approximately 6 feet and weighing approximately 175 lbs. During the robbery he was suspected to be wearing dark pants with no shirt.

In his written statement Enos said the incident is unresolved and there is an ongoing investigation. If you have any information about the robbery, call the Topeka Police Department at 785-368-9400.

Several Washburn upperclassmen have made the decision to live in off-campus residences like Washburn Place. Marissa Meis, a junior mass media major, lived alone in a studio apartment in the Library Park Apartments at 1037 S.W. Garfield Ave.

“Overall, I felt safe in my apartment. The area was notorious for being sketchy, but in recent years they’ve increased patrolling and crime has gone down substantially,” Meis said.

One of the precautions Meis took while living alone was always locking her door and not allowing anyone inside the apartment that wasn’t someone she knew. She also made sure she was familiar with the apartment management team.

“I never had any incidents where I felt immediately unsafe,” Meis said. “However, there were several instances that I felt as though someone else in my building may have been in danger. I often heard yelling and crashing in the apartment next to me, and police showed up a few times. I just tried to stick to myself to avoid trouble.”

Enos states that there are several things a student can do to enhance their level of safety and avoid potential negative scenarios.

“It is important to understand your behaviors because those are what are going to dictate your safety,” Enos said. “Drinking and doing drugs are things that will automatically increase your risk.”

The major idea Enos promoted was always being aware of your surroundings, which may include cars or people. Enos remarked that accidents are one of the leading causes of death for college students.

“All of campus needs to know that it’s the little things that can keep you safe, whether that’s not leaving valuables unattended in your car or just knowing who you’re with when you’re out,” Enos said. “By nature, college students are very helpful and trusting. So it’s important for them to understand that they’re allowed to say ‘no’ in an uncomfortable situation.”

Enos continued to say that if you’re out on a Friday or Saturday night you need to make sure to have a fully charged cellphone and a plan for how to get home when the night is over.

If you ever find yourself in dangerous situation, the Washburn University Police Department is available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 785-670-1153.  

Washburn University has made a huge commitment to promote safety with the installment of help phones and a camera system for accessing campus footage.

Help phones are connected to stainless steel poles with a blue light and lettering stating “Emergency.” They are dispersed throughout campus and are a direct link to the Washburn University Police Department Communications Center.

When the red call button is pressed the help phone is activated. The Washburn communications specialist will answer the call and assistance will be dispatched to the caller.

“Our top priority has and always will be the students, faculty and staff. We want the Washburn campus to be safe and secure at all times,” Enos said.