Miami-Oxford Community Experiences Spike in Crime

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After an altercation began outside Cellar Bar — 15 W High St. — on the night of February 11, shots were fired from the direction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Ashley Ryan, a senior at Miami University, was hit by some shrapnel in the finger and was taken to the hospital. No severe damage was caused.

Witnesses of the event described a silver pickup truck leaving the scene of the crime. However, when Oxford Police Department (OPD) officers stopped the vehicle down the road and performed a search, no weapons were found. The detectives investigating the case are still unsure about the number of shots fired and what type of weapon was used, but they do know that a 9 mm casing was found.

With efforts by Miami officials to enhance safety precautions in recent years, such as e-mail and text notifications of crime alerts, students are more aware of crime in Oxford than ever before. Upperclassmen on campus remember when there weren’t seemingly weekly alerts that notified them of crimes or to stay away from certain areas of campus.

Trent Schumann, a senior at Miami, said he remembers getting a few texts his freshman year regarding crime, however it was nothing in comparison to the quantity of alerts he receives now, three years later.

With two shootings and the recent alcohol-related death of a freshman, faculty and students across campus are concerned and increasingly aware about the seemingly recent surge in crime on or around Miami’s campus.

John Freeman, a worker of 31 years at Miami, said, “Yeah, crime seems to have increased this year. It’s not too often you hear about serious issues like students dying and shootings in one year.”

A randomized poll of about 200 students and faculty members was taken on campus that asked whether students feel the crime rate on Miami’s campus or its surroundings has increased. 83% of those felt that the crime rate in Oxford has increased in the past year, while the other 17% felt there has either been no increase, or they believe that Miami is just doing a better job of informing students of the crime on campus.

Jocelyn McMinimy, a sophomore at Miami, has never experienced Miami without its alerts and notifications telling her of the crimes occurring. McMinimy said, “You hear about sexual assaults all the time and it’s sad, but I think it’s good that it is becoming a public issue.”

Captain Stephen VanWinkle of the Miami University Police Department (MUPD) said, “I don’t think it [crime] has increased, we’ve just had a few high-profile cases that make it seem like it.”

According to VanWinkle, the crime rates fluctuate each year. “We’ve had much worse years than the one we’re having, like kidnappings and multiple shots fired,” he said. However, VanWinkle also stated that there has been an increase in underage drinking arrests, saying, “I think it has to do with the warmer weather, which leads to more house parties.”

According to crime statistics taken by the MUPD, since 2013 there has actually been a decrease in sex offenses and burglaries on campus. However, arrests related to alcohol consumption have skyrocketed since 2013. In 2015, 144 alcohol-related arrests were made, and disciplinary action was taken against 421 students.

“It’s come more to light, but it’s been going on for years,” said Sgt. Jon Varley of the OPD. “Over my time here, the difference is the BAC levels, those are higher than what they were in the mid 90’s when I started … People are going out now to get completely black out drunk, which is a danger and concerns us.”

With a limited amount of available officers at the OPD, being everywhere to protect everyone is a challenge that Sgt. Varley faces.

In 2013, only 96 people were arrested for alcohol violations on campus. This academic year alone, according to Captain VanWinkle, the MUPD has made around 130 arrests for underage drinking.

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