Campus / Campus Safety / News / May 27, 2009

Campus grapples with spike in crime

One evening in April, junior Merritt Rohlfing left the Out Post with a can of Monster and began walking down West Street, past the Quads, to drop off his keys. He saw a group of boys that he did not recognize, teenage boys who were not Knox students, standing across from the old Phi Delta house.

“I walked past them and brushed up against one of them in the wrong way,” said Rohlfing. “They told me they were going to bust me up. I didn’t believe them.”

As Rohlfing continued to walk past the group of boys, he realized that they were following him. Then one jumped on his back and knocked him on the head. Rohlfing knew that if he allowed the boys to force him to the ground, they would beat him up. Instead, he fought back, hitting one boy and tearing another’s shirt. He stayed on his feet, and when the boys realized they could not get him down, they ran away.

“It couldn’t have taken more than a minute, but it was a long minute,” said Rohlfing. “I was kind of dazed so I just watched them run across the softball field.”

Within a few minutes, Rohlfing called a campus safety officer, who picked him up near the Quads and looked for the boys, but they had disappeared. The officer told him similar incidents had happened recently around town. Eventually, Rohlfing was called into the Galesburg Police Department to help identify the boys who attacked him, as one was a suspect in another offense. At least one of the boys was arrested.

Rohlfing still is not exactly sure why the boys attacked him.

“I guess they were doing it for fun,” said Rohlfing. “I couldn’t figure out why they were on campus.”

The struggle occurred out in the open with little provocation. After jumping on him, Rohlfing said the boys did not even try to take anything from him, but just ran away.

After the incident, Rohlfing said he felt on edge walking through campus, but not necessarily afraid for his own safety because he knew he could fend off another attack.

“I was more worried for other people,” said Rohlfing. “Maybe this isn’t the safest environment in the world.”

Beyond Rohlfing’s incident, crimes have been committed on or around campus. As TKS reported in April, the Knox Crest apartments, off-campus homes to many students, have been broken into in the past year. Additionally, the campus house located at 270 West Tompkins has experienced break-ins and theft.

“It was easy to get in [the house],” said sophomore Willi Goehring, a resident of the house, which has been officially robbed twice.

The first time, Goehring said, a few men came late at night and knocked on the door. When a resident opened the door, they pushed him aside and began searching through the house. The police were called and the men left, only taking a computer. Goehring did not think they were organized or dedicated to their crime. Nobody was hurt.

“The repercussions haven’t been that bad,” said Goehring. “We’re not threatened by it. If someone really wants to, they can rob you no matter where you are.”

The second time the house was robbed, the criminal entered through a first-floor window and stole a computer, which was later retrieved. Residents at the house try to lock at least one of their doors at all times and sometimes get antsy when a lot of people are gathering at the house, but Goehring said in general they do not feel unsafe living there. Since the house is often used as a venue for gatherings and campus parties, it can also attract trouble.

“If the house looks quiet, then you’re not going to get any trouble. But we’re not quiet,” said Goehring. “We welcome, at least to some extent, the chaos that surrounds it.”

Only men currently live in the house and Goehring said they are not worried about future break-ins. He would be surprised if anyone was ever injured as a result of the robberies.

“Most people are just playing power games,” said Goehring. “They’ll talk a big show, but they don’t really do anything.”

Goehring said both times there was trouble at his house, a Campus Safety officer quickly responded to their call. He appreciates that they are available at any time.

“They are very quick and very fair,” said Goehring. “Knox students are safer than they think.”

Campus Safety Director John Schlaf said that crime around Knox has not necessarily increased. However, the region in which it is located has shifted towards the west side of campus. The areas near Monmouth Boulevard currently have a heavier report of crime than other areas of campus, but Schlaf said that was not always so. Years ago, the crime was concentrated on the east side of campus, but when the neighborhoods around that area decided to form a watch group, the crime shifted.

In the past year, Galesburg has increased patrol around that area and even acquired extra funding to keep the area safe. They have also increased patrol of the area in the recent months. On campus, students are welcome to call Campus Safety at any time. Those who live off campus can call Campus Safety to check their living space for safety hazards, but should call the Galesburg Police Department in the event of a crime. Campus Safety and the Galesburg Police Department have a working relationship to keep Knox and the surrounding area safe for all students.

In the meantime, Schlaf urges students to be smart about their safety on campus.

Tips for staying safe:

Travel in groups at night.

Stay in lighted areas.

Lock all doors.

Don’t prop doors open.

Don’t listen to music or talk on a cell phone while walking around.

Laura Miller


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