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5 Years of Crime At Elon

What happens when a law is broken?

by Anna Johnson,

When a Student Breaks a Law the Case is Handled by One of the Following:

Judicial Affairs

Judicial Affairs, Elon University's internal judicial body, not only holds students responsible for statutory laws but also Elon's Honor Code and student handbook. Whitney Gregory, coordinator for Judicial Affairs, said Elon students are held to a higher standard than the law requires them to be.

Gregory said it was this standard that led her to Elon.

"I really loved what Elon was saying philosophically about all student conduct," she said. "What we are interested is inside the classroom and outside of the classroom. Being a student at Elon is like being a member of an honor society, so there are higher standards."

Gregory studied political science and said while in the legal system it can be argued whether it is meant to be educational. At Elon, she said, education was the main goal.

She said her least favorite part about the judicial process is when parents or students treat the judicial process like a legal system.

"They want to make some sort of deal, to drop this piece or ignore that piece," she said. "And I do try to talk to people through this is not the goal of this system and tell them we don't make those kind of deals."

Every Monday, Campus Safety and Police and the Town of Elon Police Department meet with Gregory to discuss what incidents have occurred in the past week. She said sometimes there are zero incidents and sometimes there are 10, which is one of the highest numbers they have received in a week.

Resident assistants, professors and students can also report students to Judicial Affairs. Gregory said they always investigate a complaint to be sure it is valid before placing someone in the judicial process.

There are three aspects to Judicial Affairs' system: policy, enforcement and sanctions.

The policy aspect is what is listed in the student handbook and what is expected of students. Some of the changes that have taken place in the past five years include an update to the alcohol policy.
Prior to 2007, students under the age of 21 were not allowed in the same area as alcohol.

"We gave students that freedom and the responsibility to be around alcohol use but try to make the responsible decisions themselves not to consume," she said.

This is the good samaritan rule, which states if a student shows signs of alcohol poisoning and an underage student who has been drinking calls for help, that student will not be punished.

The enforcement process of judicial affairs refers to the different aspects of how different rules are communicated, how student and faculty are trained and what the policies are that the university has on alcohol during different functions.

The final step in the judicial process is sanctions. Gregory said it was important to have an educational aspect to the sanctions to help instill the corrected behavior in the student.


Town of Elon Police Department:

If a crime occurs away from the brick pathways and white columns of Elon University, the Town of Elon Police Department will take the case. The force has 16 officers with four on reserve and shares buildings with Elon's Town hall at 104 S. Williamson Ave.

Police Chief LaVell Lovette said burglaries and larcenies are the most typical types of crime around Elon. Often criminals are aware and take advantage of when students go home for breaks and the summer.

She said in recent years the town has seen indecent exposure and sexual assaults, but not in a large amount.

"I won't say (they are) really prevalent or really are bad cases, but they cause things to be in a turmoil for a while," Lovette said. "So those are kind of scary. But I can't say we've had real crime issues."

Lovette said handpicking her staff is one of the ways she has combated crime in the past five years. Having a staff with a particular set of characteristics and skills, she said, helps the smaller organization adapt to the community.

"What I want is someone who will fit into our department and our community," Lovette said. "Someone who has great people skills, someone capable of making decisions. We don't have direct supervision all of the time so I want to make sure our officers can make good, solid decisions, and someone who is outgoing and loyal to the community."

She said her current staff possesses these qualities. But in the smaller community of the department, she said if someone has personal issues everyone is aware of it. She said her least favorite part about her position are the personal issues.

"In a smaller department, everyone is pretty much family," she said. "To make sure the job gets done, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page. You just have to make sure everyone is focused and everyone is motivated."

The relationship between the students and the police force, Lovette said, has become less antagonistic in recent years. She said when she first joined the staff there were several calls where students would host parties with more than 300 people present.

"When you got that many people, regardless whether there are really problems or not, there is a problem. And you are responding with two, three, four officers."

Now, she said, the parties are much smaller with some noise complaints and fights outside bars. But there are not as many disturbances as there were in the past.

Lovette said if students are involved with a crime, alcohol is usually present. The most common violation is underage possession or consumption.

"We have people going to bars, getting extremely intoxicated or are already extremely intoxicated before they go to the bars," Lovette said. "We have had a few assaults but those are relatively minor and relatively few."

She said one of the issues with policing a campus community is the lack of life experience in the students.

"They are just now getting to where they are on their own and responsible for their own consequences," Lovette said. "And I will say the students here at Elon are really great kids. But I think sometimes alcohol gets in the way, and they make stupid decisions. On a law enforcement standpoint everything we do that involves students is because of alcohol issues and it is prevalent here."


Campus Safety and Police:

Students can see the officers on segways or patrolling the residence halls throughout the night. Elon University Campus Safety and Police, based out of Oaks Commons, has 16 certified police officers within its ranks, each with the power to arrest and carrying the standard Glock 40.

Chuck Gantos has been the director of Campus Safety and Police since the department's creation in 1996. He said prior to the department, the university had student guards, a parking enforcer and four security guards. The measures were acceptable at the time, Gantos said, but in the mid '90s Elon experienced a physical growth and needed a police force that could conduct its own investigations.

One trend, Gantos observed, is the campus is becoming more urban, and outside influences are beginning to play a larger role in the community.

"Most of the crimes that we have, most of the major things we have are not done by our students," he said. "They are done by outsiders."

While there have been no vehicle break-ins this year, he said the major incidents such as vandalism, burglaries, break-ins and assaults are not things being done by students but by outsiders.

Another trend was the number of individuals traveling within the university and being unrelated to the campus.

"Anytime we have people here late at night that aren't part of the university setting, the reason for them being here could be legitimate or illegitimate, but we have to make sure the people we have around here are goods on," Gantos said.

Gantos echoed Lovette when he said alcohol was the main issue involving students, followed by the abuse of prescription pills.

"Alcohol is just a social issue all college campuses throughout the country face," he said. "If there was a magic formula every university in the country would jump on it. It is just one you have to deal with and try to educate people and hope people are responsible."

He said he didn't believe alcohol use was increasing but instead had leveled off in recent years. But the most common alcohol offense is underage possession and consumption.

Gantos said there have not been major incidents in the past five years but more frequent smaller incidents.

"We have a little drug bust here or there but we haven't had any significant violence on campus," he said. "I attribute that to our students."

He said 99 percent of students go throughout their four years with no problems, and it is the remainder 1 percent who cause the majority of the incidents on campus.

Gantos said the force vastly differs from day to night. He said during the day most officers generally do community patrolling and spend time answering phone calls. At night, on the other hand, officers are out on patrol. He said this is when a majority of the incidents occur and several citations are issued.

When it comes to the relationship between students and officers, Gantos said he hopes it is one of mutual respect and understanding. He said he personally enjoys working with students and his only regret is he can't do more.

"The most challenging thing is trying to help people and do what is right and at the same time do that within the confinements of the law," he said. "Sometimes you would like to do more than you really can."


The Top 5 Locations Elon Police Department Have Responded to Since 2005:

660 Manning Ave.: Police dispatched 68 times in five years
This trailer park is located less than one mile from Elon University. The property is owned by Brookside Communities LLC and worth more than $800,000. The police have arrived in regards to domestic abuse calls, burglary, arson, dog bite and drug violations and is the home of John Paylor, the man who was tased by Town of Elon Police Department.

602 E. Haggard Ave.: Police dispatched 57 times in five years
The Sheridan condominiums are home to mostly Elon University students. The crimes committed include drug violations, larceny, injury to personal property, assault, DWI, possession of marijuana, vandalism and resisting arrest.

110 W. Haggard Ave.: Police dispatched 43 times in five years
The only gas station in Elon has been subject to a wide range of crimes, from larceny, embezzlement, drug violation, robbery and fraud. Some of the incidents that are listed at the Kangaroo station did not occur in the store but in the parking lot where police pulled over individuals.

739 E. Haggard Ave.: Police dispatched 39 times in five years
Elon Place is an off-campus apartment complex located less than one mile from campus. Police have responded to vandalism, burglary, larceny, drug violation, drug possession, calls for lost property, contributing to a the delinquency of a minor, possession with intent to sell and missing person.

104 S. Williamson Ave: Police dispatched 38 times in five years
Town of Elon Police has seen this building more than the 38 times in five years. The Williamson Avenue building is the police and Elon Town Hall building. Most of the incidents are in response to lost cell phones. If someone loses a cell phone and picks it up at the police station an incident report still has to be written. There have been other incidents including fraud, lost property, vandalism and drug violations.

Criminal Patterns at Elon:

Whitney Gregory, coordinator of Judicial Affairs, said the first two months of school are the busiest for her office. She said many freshmen are "looking to figure out where the boundaries are . . . now that they are creating their own framework rather than being in the framework their parents have created for them."

In May 2009, 12 Elon University students were arrested for drug-related criminal offenses. A total of 29.2 grams of cocaine were seized and several students were charged with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. The drug busts led to more than 50 students protesting the Town of Elon Police Department and the raids.