With nine vehicle burglaries and two armed robberies this semester, concern for safety on campus has risen.
“It [the car robberies and the armed robberies] freaked me out, because it happened in the middle of the day,” sophomore mass communication major Trudy Allen said. “I just don’t want that to happen to me.”
In response to concerns about safety and security, Wesleyan’s Director of Security Chris Beckrich, along with Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dennis Hall and Captain Michael Shedd, commander of the Fort Worth Police East Division, hosted an open forum on campus safely and security on Tuesday during free period.
The forum was in Lou’s Place and was open to questions after general issues were discussed.
“Security is obviously our main concern for our students here,” Beckrich said. “We understand everyone’s concerns and we’d like to be transparent with what we’re doing.”
First, Beckrich addressed the immediate changes to security in response to the recent incidents.
“Some of the things we did was we brought in an extra security guard to strictly patrol and be dedicated to that side of the campus where the incidents are occurring,” Beckrich said. “They are escorting students back and forth from some of the further parking lots to make them feel safe. I’ve also hired Fort Worth PD as a supplement to our security and that kind of has an armed response. I changed their hours to better reflect the time that the incidents are occurring, so they can be here if incidents occur. “
Beckrich also said he’s worked to increase security camera coverage beyond the residence halls.
“We are partly in the process of inserting six more outdoor cameras to better watch the parking lots and some of the outer areas on campus,” Bedkrich said. “We have a lot of internal cameras like in the residence halls and stuff. Since I’ve gotten here my focus has kind of been to push it [camera coverage] out so we can watch from our dispatcher what’s going on. We have the Fort Worth Police Department that’s a few blocks away and I have requested extra patrols from them when they can spare them.”
As for the car burglary incidents, the suspect is believed to have been identified and police have been investigating for evidence to get a warrant.
“Your security department did a great job of forwarding some real-time information to us about a possible suspect,” Shedd said. “They caught him on a bicycle rolling around campus. Then our guys were able to find that guy, pick him up, and bring him in for an interview. He was probably the burglar, since you guys haven’t had any burglaries since we picked him up.
“He did not confess to the crime, but he did have a screwdriver on him. We’re still watching that guy and if any of the property shows up at the pawn shop under his name or something of that nature happens. He did not confess to the burglaries, but he did confess to the fact that it was him on the bicycle.”
Shedd said the burglaries are what brought the police’s attention to the area when the armed robberies started occurring.
“That [car break-ins] initially brought our attention to the area,” Shedd said. “Then there was the robbery that occurred on October 19 on Rosedale Street. We had an officer that was pretty much on the spot, because they saw the suspect running off. Though they chose to stay with the victim, because they got hit in the head with what appeared to be a pistol. Rather than chase after someone he didn’t know why he was chasing he decided to stay with the victim and unfortunately at that point the suspect got away.”
As for the female student that was robbed at gunpoint on Brinkley Street, Shedd said the police believe they have a good lead on the suspects.
“I don’t think they were targeting the campus specifically, because there were there other robberies associated with those guys within a very short period of time,” Shedd said. “They had done a slew of robberies over on New York prior to this one, another on Wichita the same night, and then they did the one here. They we kind of going all over the place.
“The good news is our intel group is watching the car. They know what car it was, and they’re sitting on the car and are waiting to get somebody in that car. That was as of yesterday. I haven’t followed up on that today yet to see if they figured out who those suspects are, but they do have a good lead on those suspects. I’m not sure if it’s the same guys associated with the robbery that occurred on October 19, because they were on foot and they were in a car for all the other ones.”
As for on campus, the police are looking to add more precautions, but have already started with some.
“What we did do is we put the sky watch out here,” Shedd said. “We rotate that around and try to deter crime in that manner. We also have cars that we put out here on campus with property in them to try to entice criminally-minded individuals to snoop around, look into vehicles, and take that property. All of that property has tracking GPS technology in it.
“Finally, our bike unit has been out here doing patrols as well. So, you’ll see increased patrol on bikes as well.”
All the changes and improvements in security can only go so far. Hall closed the forum encouraging everyone to be active participants in their own safety.
“When it comes to the security and safety of our campus, we can invest a lot of resources into our campus security and Fort Worth PD, but keeping our campus as safe as it can be is everyone’s responsibility,” Hall said. “We all can play a role in with the concept of, ‘If you see something, say something.’ Don’t be a passive bystander to what’s going on on campus, report things when they happen, so we know how to address things when they come up. We all have a role in that, so I’m asking you to live up to that expectation and encourage friends and peers to do the same.”
The Fort Worth Police Department invites people with additional questions about the security of the area covered by the East Division to a community forum on Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at The Potter’s House of Fort Worth.