Underage drinking, smoking marijuana are main campus offenses

TU police on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Photo by TU.

TU police on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Photo by TU.

By Ardajah Jones
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

TOWSON, Md. – Thefts of bicycles and other private property, underage drinking and smoking marijuana are the types of crimes that fill Towson University’s police logs and give headaches to officials charged with keeping campus residence halls safe.

While the offenses are a problem, Police Department Cpl. Kia Williams said the campus is very safe and has had the lowest number of major crimes such as rape and murder per capita among all the other institutions in the University System of Maryland. For example, the university’s Crime Prevention and Reporting page showed no violent crimes committed with the use of weapons reported for on-campus housing within the past year.

“Towson has also been recognized as one of the safest universities in the nation,” Chief of Police Bernie Gerst said in his website message. “We have received the Governor’s Crime Prevention Award for more than 30 consecutive years, and we received an award in traffic safety from the Maryland Highway Safety Office.”

Williams, the community outreach officer who has worked at Towson 10 years, said the campus policy is enforced by 42 fully sworn in officers who offer crime prevention programs as well as escort services for students who feel unsafe or need rides. The Police Department, which is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, is housed in the Office of Public Safety across the street from campus.

“Our patrol squad can have no less than four officers a shift,” Williams said, explaining the protection that’s provided. “We have other officers on campus, such as myself, who are not in the Patrol Bureau.”

Besides the officers, the university employs students as resident assistants (RAs) to keep peace and order in the dormitories. The RAs enforce the rules and residence life policies, and typically are the ones who report any criminal activity in the dorms. Also, the dorms have security guards and community center assistants who check students’ identification cards as they come into the building.

“When I’m on duty I have to be in the building from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. doing rounds on the hour, walking around, making sure there isn’t a lot of noise or illegal parties going on,” said Terevid Ahlakor, Senior resident assistant in the Glenn Complex dorms.

Glen Complex residence hall. Photo by TU.

Glen Complex residence hall. Photo by TU.

Federal statistics show that the three most common crimes on college campuses are burglary, motor vehicle theft and sexual assault. However, Towson’s statistics show that the usual crimes at on-campus resident halls are theft, alcohol violations, drug possession or destruction of property. Also, in the past three months, 10 bicycle thefts have been reported.

Williams said the main drug students are caught with is marijuana. Towson crime logs showed that from September until now, campus residence halls have been the scene of 11 “controlled dangerous substance violations,” seven incidents of alcohol-related crimes and seven thefts.

Ahlakor said that in the two years she’s worked as a resident assistant, she has reported seven incidents to the university police. Underage drinking was reported four times in the residence halls. She said she witnessed one major crime in her building when a student was caught selling marijuana out of his dorm room last year.

“Usually most of the crime or violations I experience in residence halls are related to marijuana and alcohol, especially during high activity times on campus such as homecoming or Tiger Fest,” Ahlakor said, explaining that most of the students living in her dorm are under the age of 21.

During the university’s Tiger Fest weekend in April, Ahlakor said she reported three incidents of drug- or alcohol-related incidents.

“We aren’t looking for alcohol but if we run into someone with a red solo cup, any alcoholic paraphernalia, anything insinuating alcohol, or we smell marijuana, it is my job to report that to Towson University Police,” Ahlakor said.

Security measures at other University System of Maryland institutions vary slightly from Towson’s. University of Maryland student Kennede Smith-Johnson said students at the flagship school in College Park are not required to show identification when they swipe into their dorm buildings. Also, she said students do not have to sign in their guests when they bring them into the dorms. At Towson, the host not only has to sign in each guest but use a valid identification card to do it.

West Village housing. Photo by TU

West Village housing. Photo by TU

The security system used in Towson’s dorms adequately protects the students, said security guard Jeremy Williams.

“I know it can be annoying having to show your One Card every day, especially if it is the same person at the same time every time you come back to the building,” said Williams, “but it ensures the security of the building.”

The campus security guards are not employed by the Police Department. They work for a separate agency, Abacus Security.

Some students privately complain that the security guards are not as attentive as they should be while on duty. The comfort comes in knowing that Towson police officers are always on patrol, they said.

“I’ve come back to the dorms at 2 a.m. when security has only been there for about three hours and they’re sleeping or watching Netflix,” said Dalis Graham, a community center assistant. “They aren’t exactly attentive of what they should be doing but I feel fairly safe living on campus.”

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