Eastern middle of the pack among crime, drug stats

David Arkin

Eastern New Mexico University ranks in the middle of the pack among the state’s four-year colleges and universities for major crimes, liquor and drug law violations.
Universities and colleges submit reported crimes to the U.S. Department of Education under a campus security and crime law.
The Albuquerque Journal compiled the data from 2001-2002 into rankings over the weekend.
ENMU was ranked third out of nine state schools for major crimes, which consisted of criminal homicide, sexual offense, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.
From 2001-02, ENMU had 53 reported crimes, which amounted to a 7.1 major crime rate per 1,000 students. The College of Santa Fe was first with 31 crimes, with a rate of 8.6 major crimes per 1,000 students. The College of the Southwest was ninth with zero crimes reported.
Among liquor law violations, ENMU ranked sixth with 17 crimes and a rate of 2.3 crimes per 1,000 students. The College of Santa Fe was again first with 96 crimes with a 26.5 crime rate per 1,000 students.
And among drug law violations, ENMU was fifth with 21 crimes and a rate of 2.8 crimes per 1,000 students. The College of Santa Fe was first with 60 crimes with a rate of 16.6 crimes per 1,000 students.
ENMU President Steve Gamble said having a safe campus is a priority for ENMU.
“We take this very serious,” he said.
One way ENMU is attempting to make the campus safe for students is by creating a well-lit campus at night.
The university received $65,000 during the last state Legislature session for lighting upgrades to its campus.
“Safety was 100 percent the reason for getting money for the lighting,” Gamble said. “We want our people to feel safe. The more lighting you have, the more people feel safe.”
The lighting upgrades will be implemented across campus.
Having a safe campus is especially important for parents sending their children to higher education institutions, Gamble said.
“I hear from parents that they feel more secure in Portales and at Eastern than at a larger city and university,” Gamble said. “Sometimes it’s not that parents don’t think the campus won’t be safe, but rather the town isn’t safe. This is a good, safe town.”
Gamble said it’s important to remember that crimes will happen on campuses no matter how much a university prepares.
“No matter how serious you take safety, you’re always vulnerable,” Gamble said.
“There are some terrible incidents that happen no matter what your precautions are. That is the society we live in, but we do everything we can to make our campus and people feel safe.”
Gamble receives a report on the number of crimes that occur on campus, so he said he wasn’t surprised by any of the numbers that were reported to the Department of Education.
Among the 53 major crimes reported by ENMU, thefts topped the list, Gamble said.
And the number of alcohol crimes that were reported on ENMU’s campus may not indicate the number of incidents involving alcohol that actually occurs, Gamble said.
“If an individual walks under the influence into a residence hall we probably try to get that individual to bed rather than try to file charges against them,” Gamble said. “So we try to show compassion on that side.”
The University of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque and New Mexico State University, located in Las Cruces, the state’s two largest schools, were among the top of the pack in all categories.
Some of the reason for that can be attributed to the environments that surround schools in larger cities.
“UNM is in a big city,” Gamble said. “You have to look at where we are located. It’s difficult to compare the schools.”
Gamble said universities during the last few years have had to improve their on-campus police departments.
“I think any university that has not strengthened its police force isn’t really paying attention to the real world,” he said. “I think all universities have had to take a long hard look at security and address it.”
It wasn’t that many years ago when universities didn’t allow their campus polices to carry weapons. As society has changed, police carrying weapons on campus has changed, Gamble said.
“We just reached a point where we needed policemen on campus to have weapons to do their job right,” Gamble said. “Universities just reflect what goes on in society. We have instances with alcohol and drugs. The students that come here come from that environment.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.