Saturday, Nov. 2 saw an unusual beginning to the morning for North Campus residents, when a non-affiliated man found his way into a North Campus dorm room. The man was charged with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, and rumored to be under the influence of both. The man was arrested and issued a criminal trespass warning, though sources believe he has not yet been entered into the UAH Police Department’s trespass warning hot sheet. Fortunately, this incident ended without injury, but it has led students to raise concerns about dorm security, and one of them, Abby Bozarth, has started a petition to address some of these concerns.
A few hours after the break-in, UAHPD sent an email to faculty, students, and staff. In it, the Chief of Police, Michael Snellgrove stated, “A non-affiliated male was arrested for Burglary 3rd after gaining unauthorized entry into one of the Residence Halls around 8:00 AM this morning. While no one was injured, UAH officials take situations like this very seriously and have implemented appropriate measures to prevent these situations in the future.” The email continued on to list a couple of precautions students may take to mitigate the likelihood of having their dorms broken into; keeping doors closed and locked, and using a peep hole, for example.
In an interview with Bogarth, she stated that she started the petition to address the fact “random people can just get into the dorms.” She elaborated further in the description of her petition, writing, “they [students] would be safer and potentially feel safer if their main door always locked behind them, leading to an atmosphere of increased security on campus without imposing an undue burden of control.” The petition is addressed to the UAH Housing and Residence Life, UAH’s president, Darron Dawson, and John Maxon, UAH’s Associate Vice President of Student Affair. It requests University Housing to outfit Frank Franz, North, and Central Campus residence halls with automatic locks for their main rooms. The petition also requests these locks for any other university residences lacking this feature. The petition, signed by 93 at the time of writing, has support from concerned students and parents.
On Monday Nov. 18, Bogarth met with the Resident Hall Association at one of their fireside chats, where members seemed open to change. According to an update posted on Bogarth’s Change.org petition page, Housing has been exploring “different safety options, ranging from automatic doors to video cameras to patrolling security to cutting down the wooded places near North Campus Housing.” Larger projects, such as the proposed locks, would have to wait until at least next fiscal quarter, as the cost is estimated to “be in the six figure range.’”
One concern Housing and students have voiced is that people chose not to lock their main doors. Some students, for any number of reasons, do not want to lock their main doors, and in some cases, if roommates cannot agree, the door remains unlocked. Another fear is that the new locks could lead to an increase in lockouts, and their associated fees. During the fireside chat, Bogarth “suggested they keep lockout fees around $5 or $10 rather than getting worse and worse the more times you forget; that way students don’t feel overly nervous about using their locks.”
In summation, while everyone is grateful the incident on Nov. 2 ended as well as it has, the event has inarguably called attention to holes in residential security, and one can only hope the efforts to fill these holes are fruitful. Bogarth, for her part, is optimistic. “Hopefully,” she says, “it works and can get through the bureaucracy. We’ll see.”