Crime and safety Q&A with police chief

REBECCA WHITE, Evergreen managing editor

Conversation between Managing Editor Rebecca White and Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins.

Q: What are the most common crimes you see throughout the school year?

A: As far as involving Washington State University students, mostly theft type crimes and assaults are the two we see the most of. Thefts a lot of times, potential victims can help themselves by locking their cars and not leaving valuable items in plain sight in vehicles. A lot of our thefts from vehicles are from unlocked vehicles. That’s not to say that someone doesn’t occasionally break into a car, but typically someone is looking for an easy target.

And then assaults, most of our assaults are really alcohol-related, in that the people involved had partaken in some level of alcohol. Part of the prevention on those issues are a couple of things. One is to drink responsibly and make sure you are able to have good judgement and make good decisions. The more alcohol the less that is likely to happen. But much of it is also friends watching out for friends. We hear the term a designated driver, we recommend if a group of people that is going out to party, maybe have a person designated that is not going to drink that can help those who are drinking with those decision making and judgement calls and try to prevent them from getting into a situation where someone could be victimized or be involved in some sort of altercation.

Q: What are some basic things students can do to keep themselves safe when they are out and about around the community?

A: I think the primary thing is alcohol. There’s sometime a perception that our officers are out there hiding around the corner waiting to find someone who is underage that has alcohol or has consumed alcohol, but that is really not the case. Most of the time when we get involved with someone we arrest or give them infraction for an alcohol violation is the result of something they’ve done to bring attention to themselves. For example, getting involved in an altercation with someone or being so intoxicated that they can barely stand. That is definitely going to draw our attention and the attention of others and that’s how we end up getting in contact with them. So really trying to be responsible and using alcohol in a responsible manner.

Q: How can students keep their homes more secure?

A: One thing is just being a good neighbor and watching out for each other. The people that know best of who should and shouldn’t be in a particular neighborhood is the neighbors themselves. We encourage neighbors to call if they see something that doesn’t look right. Even if everything turns out ok, we would much rather have someone go one of those calls than have someone hesitate and call in and have something happen. Pullman is a safe community, but that doesn’t mean that we’re crime free. So students should take precautions to try to prevent themselves from being victimized. Locking their doors and closing their windows and trying to what we would call hardening the target so they are not an easy target for those who are trying to commit a crime of opportunity.

Q: If you hear something suspicious or may have a domestic disturbance going next door, what is the best course of action?

A: Those type of situations it’s better to call us because they can be very volatile. We don’t want to put someone else in danger, so if they hear something that doesn’t sound right or might need some intervention, definitely give us a call. Again, sometime those turn out to be things that are ok, we would rather respond to those then not.

Q: In the first couple weeks of school, there is a lot of partying in Pullman. What advice do you have for students to keep themselves and their friends safe?

A: If someone is hosting a party, they can give us a call. If they feel like things are starting to get out of control and our perspective is to try to prevent crimes from happening and try to keep people safe. We’re not necessarily going to come up and start looking for people to start arresting or give tickets to. If there is an issue that is developing we want to go up and resolve that problem. Our College Hill officer, Shane Emerson, is assigned specifically in that area to work with students and student groups. A lot of time those who are hosting parties will call him before the parties starts and let him know that they’re having a party and what they’re expecting and if there is a problem they can give officer Emmerson a call and if Officer Emerson isn’t available they can just call and we can send officers there. If they want help closing down the party or need help getting these under control, we can help them with that. Our whole objective is to help keep students safe.

Q: The first six weeks of school, also called the red zone, is one of the highest periods of sexual assault on campuses. What are some things students can do to help keep themselves and each other safe from these kinds of crimes?

A: Without looking at any research and just off the top of my head, some of it has to do with new students being away from school the first time. A lot of time alcohol is involved in those situations, but I’m not trying to say that someone who is a sexual assault victim that it is their fault that they are a victim of sexual assault. There are things that everyone can do to try to do to help them from becoming a victim. Some of that is what I said before, staying with a group and having someone who is not drinking to watch over them. Also, watching your own alcohol level, too, so that you are able to make good judgement calls and not find yourself in a situation that you could become and easy target for a sexual assault.

Most of the sexual assaults reported to us are not stranger sexual assaults, but are acquaintance or friend sexual assaults. Being wary of going off by yourself with someone you don’t really know or you don’t know very well and perhaps making a pack with the friends you’re going out with. A lot of these situations happen when someone goes off on their own and can be easily taken advantage of.

Q: If someone is sexually assaulted, what are the first steps they should take?

A: The first thing they should do is if they need immediate medical care, they should get medical care. If it’s a situation like a rape, they would want to go to the hospital and they do not have to report it to the police if they don’t want to. We do encourage any who is a victim of sexual assault to go to the hospital and have an examination so if sometime down the road they do want to make a police report and have an investigation and prosecution then that evidence isn’t lost. The more time between when the crime occurs and evidence is collected, the less chance we have of collecting any kind of evidence. Also available when they go to the hospital, or even if they don’t go to the hospital, is Alternative To Violence of the Palouse, which is a resource for sexual assault victims and domestic violence victims and help someone through that kind of a situation, including whether they should or should not report it to the police and what kind of resources are available to them.

Q: Is there anything else you think students should know before they start school this fall?

A: The university has a Green Dot program that focuses on bystander intervention and I think the more that program spreads and the more people know about it and understand it, the better off the entire student body will be. A lot of times there are situations that can be prevented or stopped at some point through some type of intervention or someone that at least recognizes the situation and can call for help if they don’t intervene for themselves. I think it’s taking on some responsibility for your fellow students and accepting some responsibility for their safety. It’s kind of like neighbors watching out for neighbors and Cougs watching out for Cougs, it definitely applies across the board.