When it comes to campus crime, students can do a lot to avoid becoming a victim.
“Most crimes are a crime of opportunity,” said Grand Rapids Community College Police Lt. Scott Merlo. “If you take the opportunity away, you prevent the crime.”
Merlo, a former Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officer, has been with the GRCC Police Department since April. He says that one of the most common crimes GRCC faces is larceny.
“An all too typical scenario is that a student will leave an item unattended, and when they return for the item, somebody has stolen it,” Merlo said. “Thieves will look to see when you are the most vulnerable or when you make the mistake of leaving items unlocked or unattended.”
When asked if he believed most crimes could be avoided by simple prevention techniques, Merlo confirmed.
The campus police office, located at 25 Lyon St. NE, in front of the Lyon Street parking ramp is a fully functioning police department. “The typical law enforcement services are offered,” Merlo said. “We respond to and investigate criminal complaints, we make arrests, we enforce traffic and parking laws, we investigate property damage accidents, and we respond to medical emergencies.”
“We also make ourselves available to students, faculty, and staff for presentations or just to answer any questions they may have,” Merlo explained.
Though most crimes are preventable, there are some situations that are unpredictable due to the fact that GRCC is an open campus. Last spring an incident occurred in the music building where a man exposed himself to a student in a practice room. The student was able to run away from the man and an arrest was made. “It was not an ongoing problem,” Merlow said.
Since the incident, changes have been made in the music building to enhance security for students. “All of the practice rooms in the music center practice room hallway had emergency telephones and larger windows installed over the summer,” said Kevin Dobreff, head of GRCC’s Music Department. “The telephones give direct access to the campus police in the case of an emergency, and the windows give a very clear view into the practice room from the hallway.”
“We have also hired a practice room assistant who will monitor practice room use and assist students in gaining access to the practice rooms after 5,” Dobreff said, adding that this assistant will help set up a practice room schedule that meets the student demand.
Although the crime rate for GRCC has remained steady for the past few years, Merlo says that for a campus in an urban area, the crime rate is still relatively low, and would like to reassure students, faculty and staff that campus police are working to keep the campus community safe.