August 25, 2009 by Kristina Medley NMSU Round Up
News Editor Kristina Medley sits down with Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Lopez
Kristina Medley: Policies for underage drinking on campus:
What are the consequences for a minor who is found in possession of drugs or alcohol on campus?
Stephen Lopez: People under 21 who are caught with alcohol face two different actions. On the criminal justice side, they will either receive a criminal citation or be physically arrested. The basis for deciding which happens is usually the attitude of the individual and whether or not there have been past incidents. On the university side, the person may be referred for discipline through Housing and Residence Life and/or the Student Judicial system.
People, regardless of age, who provide alcohol to people under 21 could face felony charges in state court, as well as the university discipline process.
KM: How often do campus police make rounds to the dormitories?
SL: Officers do not make set patrols around the residence halls. However, that does not mean that they are not going through them on a regular basis. They do make patrols in and around the residence facilities as they can, based on the volume of calls for service, as well as being in them to take a variety of reports called in by residents. In addition, Housing staff regularly walk through the facilities and report any criminal activity to the police department. However, despite these patrols, the responsibility for personal protection – including locking doors and windows – remains with each resident.
KM: What are the statistics as far as violence or sexual crimes involving alcohol on campus? How often do these types of situations occur, and what are the consequences?
SL: Most incidents of rape reported to police involve the use of alcohol by one or both parties. This mirrors national trends, where studies have shown the involvement of alcohol is as high as 95% in crimes of violence on college campuses. When it comes to potential victims, alcohol use can make it more difficult to spot danger signals, it can increase the incidence of risky behavior, it can make it more difficult to communicate effectively, it can make it more difficult to defend oneself, and it can make it more difficult to recall and relate the details later to police.
In 2008, there were 5 rapes reported on campus, and in 2007, there were 6.
KM: What do certain events, such as last semester’s KRUX Fest, which featured alcohol at the event, have to do to get approved to have alcohol on campus?
SL: Any event where alcohol is to be served legally has to be approved by the university’s alcohol committee. A number of individuals are on this committee, including a representative of the Police Department. Items that might be considered include the nature of the event, the age of attendees (especially under 21 vs. over 21), security requirements, etc.
KM: The University of New Mexico has been in the news recently, because they are phasing out smoking on campus. Designated smoking areas are being removed altogether, and UNM is becoming a Smoke-Free campus. What is your opinion on this, and do you foresee this happening at NMSU in the future? What should students be aware of as far as smoking on campus goes?
SL: NMSU follows state law (the Clean Indoor Air Act), which prohibits smoking in and around buildings (within 50 feet of doors, windows, and air handling units). For smokers, there are two things to remember: 1. be courteous when smoking to avoid exposing others around you, as this generates the majority of complaints; and 2. dispose of cigarette butts in appropriate containers to avoid both littering and accidental fires.
KM: Last semester, there was quite a bit of theft taking place in the parking lots. Do you foresee this problem improving or getting worse this semester? What precautions should students take when leaving their cars in campus parking lots for hours at a time?
SL: Automobile burglary is one of the most frequent crimes on campus. Last year, there were 87 incidents, and in 2007 there were 119. Most often, thieves steal purses, backpacks, iPods, and satellite radio receivers that have been left in plain sight, as well as expensive after-market stereos. In many cases, the vehicles are left unlocked or with a window down. We encourage anyone with valuables in vehicles to keep them out of sight and consider locking them in the trunk.
Kristina Medley is News Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org