Asa Daniels, senior staff writer
On Oct. 28, an unknown, unauthorized person entered the premises of the Oak Hill Residences, following after the car of a student who lives there, according to Berry College Police Major, Ryan Chesley. The person did not have any direct contact with any residents, except for following the student’s vehicle. This is still an ongoing investigation, Chesley said.
There is no idea of a motive for the individual following the vehicle into the complex, Chesley added.
Lindsey Norman, associate dean of students, said that she understands the concerns that students have after the event occurred.
“We don’t know what his purposes were of being there, so I think that’s unnerving for students and for us,” Norman said. “It’s good that they left but I can understand the students that are concerned.”
Following the event, Campus Safety has done a review of the current security systems at the Residences, including the fencing, car decal and security cameras.
“What we’ve done is gone in and tried to make an attempt to harden those systems,” Chesley said. “So, we’ve gone back and made sure that our camera angles were correct and where we need them to be – we didn’t have any that weren’t.”
At the same time, conversations are going on about making changes to the security gate to increase a sense of protection for residents.
“The investigation kinda turned out that some folks felt like the gate was taking too long to close after a car went through, so we have been evaluating that and making adjustments as necessary just to absolutely make sure that we have the right balance between the amount of time needed to gain safe access for people who should be there, but also making sure it isn’t accessible any longer than necessary to keep other people out,” Chesley said.
At the same time, conversations are ongoing with various different entities related to campus safety about other long-term changes that may need to be made.
“We are having ongoing discussions kind of evaluating if there is anything that needs to be changed and, you know, that’s a complicated conversation in that there are multiple partners on campus involved in that, beyond just the police department,” Chesley said. “We’re trying to have conversations with the residents there to find out what they feel like might be something that could make them feel better, having conversations and planning with our campus partners to find out, ‘is there something we need to do’ [so] that’s an ongoing dialogue.”
Norman explained that there are steps that students can take at the Residences to try and prevent people from following them into the complex. One of these includes staying far enough ahead of an unwanted following vehicle so that the gate closes before they can enter the complex. Norman added that they are looking into other proactive measures. One idea that Norman liked came from a resident. It was to include signage that there are video cameras monitoring the entire complex.
“I think that is something we could do, that makes sense to me, to signal to the outside world ‘this is closed to outside people’ and to communicate that clearly,” Norman said.
Norman believes that Campus Safety responded effectively to the concerns of students during and following the event.
“I think that campus police took this very seriously,” Norman said. “In my conversations with them, they never made it seem like the student had overreacted. I felt that the police took it very seriously [and] matched the concerns of the students there and I’m reassured by that.”
Chesley explained that it is important for Berry students to be contacting security of any concerns they have regarding suspicious or curious events, such as the incident that occurred at the Residences.
“It’s hard to say after the fact, but based on what we know at this point, there would’ve been ample time for us to respond to the scene and probably deal with the situation when it happened, but we didn’t know about it,” Chesley said.
Chesley further said that everyone at Berry plays a part in helping to keep the campus safe, including the Residences.
“Everybody is part of the security process and so we just want folks to help us by passing that information on in real-time so that we can respond accordingly,” Chesley said. “[It’s important for people] to understand that they have a part in safety and security as well, because the reality is, there’s a lot more of you guys than there are of us and so, if you guys can share information with us and tell us when things are going on, let us respond to it, we’re happy to do that, we just need to know.”
Norman added that these events are important for Berry and its students to be aware of so that students can have a reliable relationship with Campus Safety.
“I think these things are important for us to pay attention to,” Norman said. “You know, we want to cooperate with campus police and rely on them, so I think [this is] a time to remind our folks that if we see something that we think is odd or concerning, the first thing we need to do is call police, and we’ve reminded our RAs about that as well.”
Norman is unsure that Campus Safety will be able to provide extra patrols for an extended period of time beyond the current time.
“Some of the students have asked to have a patrol officer there all the time, but I don’t think the college is in a place to do that with the staffing structure of campus police right now,” Norman said.
There have been no reports of other intrusions elsewhere at the Residences, including the rear doors of the complex or elsewhere, according to Norman.