Breaking and entering at Melchers Hall sparks campus-wide conversation about safety concerns
By JOSHUA STALEY
There was an incident of breaking and entering at Melchers Hall between Sat., Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. and Tue., Jan. 1 at 11:56 a.m. Upon arriving to the scene, UMW Police reported equipment, including digital cameras, laptops, electronic accessories, and an undisclosed amount of cash, were stolen from the building.
The UMW Police, in conjunction with other university police departments in Virginia, are currently investigating the crime as a Grand Larceny. However, according to UMW’s Chief Investigator, Brad Sullivan, UMW is the only jurisdiction actively working on this particular case.
“We work with other jurisdictions around the region to see if they have had any similar incidents or something that may resemble what took place here,” said UMW Chief of Police, Michael Hall. “The investigators swap information back and forth to try and get leads.”
“In situations like this, we sent out a bulletin where, in circumstances like this, we can explain to other agencies what took place here, paying special attention to other universities here in Virginia,” Sullivan said. “If they happen to have the same thing that took place, then we can try and link that back to a lead going from one place to another.”
These bulletins can be sent either regionally or nationally.
Since the breaking and entering took place over winter break, some students were unaware that it even occurred.
“I had no idea this even happened on campus,” said sophomore biology major, Alexie Burleson. “I think it’s time the school updates their security practices to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
If President Troy Paino’s proposed budget for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year is approved, additional funding will become available for campus safety with money being allocated to older buildings, Campus Walk, and Double Drive for cameras. At this time the university does not plan to add cameras to buildings scheduled for oncoming renovations until the time of renovation.
“Safety is paramount. The number one thing we do here is to ensure the safety and well-being of the community,” Chief Hall said. “Any time the university closes for an extended period of time, we become vulnerable because we have so many buildings, so we try to increase patrol during that time.”
Due to these recent events that highlighted this buildings’ lack of security, Melchers Hall will be the first to receive these security cameras.
“We also, right now, are pending for additional cameras and [Melchers] is the number one concern right now,” Hall said.
The limited lighting near Melchers, and the surrounding areas, has caused students to feel discomfort in the past.
“I think in order for Melchers to be safer there should be more lighting,” said Finto. “There are lights in the tunnel area but other than that it is poorly lit. Walking home from my night class, I hated walking home to Jefferson Hall alone.”
“I believe that the installation of cameras would be a great improvement,” Finto said. “I think they would deter crimes from occurring because the possible criminal would see these cameras and decide not to commit their crime. More blue lights in this area would also help as Melchers feels almost isolated from the rest of campus. It is on the edge of campus and there aren’t typically many other people walking around Melchers as there are walking around the Monroe Fountain or the UC.”
The reallocation of blue lights will also be in the works according to Hall. A new task force is being formed consisting of students, faculty, and emergency management staff members whose priority will be to evaluate the blue lights on campus. With that evaluation, the blue lights that are spread throughout campus unevenly can be relocated to areas where they are lacking.
“The Anderson Center parking lot currently has five or six blue lights in that one parking lot which is too many,” Hall said. “We will evaluate that and say, ‘we only need three there’ and now we have two extras that can be deployed.”
UMW Police have also established new policies that state any new blue lights to come online in the future will have cameras attached.
“This will give additional coverage,” Hall said.
Senior biology major Elizabeth Haden feels that adding cameras around campus is important for increasing overall campus safety.
“I think campus safety is one of the most important factors when choosing a college,” Haden said. “I want to know that there are safety precautions in place that will keep me, and my peers protected. If there aren’t sufficient means to protect my fellow students, that needs to change. Cameras are a necessary addition to UMW to keep their students and faculty safe. People need to know that they will be found and held accountable for any crimes at UMW.”
As of now, the breaking and entering case is still pending. UMW Police have a lead, however, that information cannot be disclosed at this time.