By Kimberly Absher
Sometimes the campus can seem a little creepy. Like at night, after your evening class gets out, or you just saw a play and you are walking to your car. It’s quiet. There is not the usual bustle of thousands of people going every which way, and the abundance of trees is making the shadows and darkness even worse. It can start to seem a little bit like one of those horror movies you have seen, and you start looking around to make sure there is no one else there. That might be when you wonder, how safe is this campus, really?”This is a fairly safe campus due to the fact that we are located in Bellevue,” says Eric (he declined giving his last name), a Public Safety Officer here on campus. The Public Safety Department is in K100, which is located behind the R building.
“Most of the incidents we deal with are property damage, and some thefts.” Indeed, thefts have become prevalent on our campus with 2 burglaries and 4 incidents involving motor vehicle theft in 2007. That is, however, a decline from a high of seven vehicle-theft incidents in 2005.
Making the campus safer is a work in progress, Eric explains, with little but significant steps being taken, such as putting a new line of lights down the much-used Snoqualmie River road. The trees that can make the surroundings more intimidating on campus have been reduced over the past few years, mainly to accommodate more parking for a growing campus. But safety is a benefit of that. Another safety precaution is the presence of security officers. “We have at least one officer on campus 24 hours a day, 365 days year,” Eric says. They are able to keep an eye on things by each officer having a designated area that they patrol, either on foot or in a vehicle. This is effective because there are no unpatrolled areas, and there is quick response time in case of any incidents.
The most notable violent crime that occurred right outside of the BCC campus was near the N building and the Eastgate Park & Ride. It was May 2005, and a woman who was not a student, but who was walking through the campus to get to a social services office nearby was attacked by Ignacio Aguilar Rosas, 29, who told police that he had recently moved from California and had been living in his car. He sexually assaulted and then strangled Cassandra Lynn Oliphant, 33, a mother of four and newly pregnant. The attack was around 9:00am, and there were students walking to and from classes. Someone saw Rosas clearly kneeling in the bushes and told a security officer, who called the police. This was the first homicide in Bellevue in 7 years.
Many students have also heard of the woman whose body was found face down in ivy in February 2004 at the Shell station near the front of BCC’s campus. She was 40 years old, and had no ties to the school. There were no signs of foul play, and it was not considered a homicide.
There was a sexual assault last year that the Jibsheet did a story on (Volume 71, Issue 10; November 13, 2007) that involved a Running Start student and another student, who apparently knew one another previously. This year, there have not been any sexual assaults, and we currently do not have any registered sex offenders on campus. But the lack of violent crime at BCC in recent years should not make people feel completely secure. It is important to realize that anything can happen, at anytime.
Julie Riegel takes an evening class that gets out at 7:40 p.m., when it is already dark now that we are into fall. What safety precautions does she take? “I always try to walk with someone to my car, though when that is not possible, I hold my biggest key in my hand so I can use it as a weapon if need be. I also call someone if I am alone and feel uncomfortable. But for the most part, I feel safe.” She says she felt less comfortable when her class was in the N building, which is more isolated and less well-lit than other buildings, but the class has since relocated to the B building, which is better, she says, due to more lights and traffic.
Security on Campus, Inc. is a non-profit organization made in memory of Jeanne Clery, a college student at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her dorm room. Her family has committed to making college campuses safer for students. Their suggestions include traveling in groups, especially at night but during the day too, and being aware of potentially dangerous situations, that can range from just being in an area that is dimly lit with few people, or any situation that is threatening at all. Take advantage of campus services, which at BCC include the 24/7 presence of security officers, as well as the option of having a security escort anytime you feel unsafe.
Sharing your schedule with friends and family is a good idea, so they know where you are and where you should be throughout the day. Have the campus security phone number, 425-564-5200, in your cell phone. Carry your phone and your keys in your hand, as Riegel said, as you will be able to react quickly and possibly use your keys to defend yourself.
Though we are fortunate enough to live in a nice, relatively low-crime area, we still need to be careful and remember to protect ourselves. Eric says, “Don’t ever think we are isolated or immune to crime here on campus, because we are part of the outside world. Anyone can come onto this campus, and we need to be aware of that.” He adds, “If you see anything suspicious, do not hesitate to call us.” Prevention is the key.
For more information on how to be safe, please attend the “Are You Ready?” Safety Event being put on by Phi Theta Kappa on Wednesday October 15th. The event goes from 2-3 pm and is in C120. You can also visit the Security on Campus, Inc. website at www.securityoncampus.org for more information.