police officer discussing
Rising Risks: Kelcey Beeler, a Knoxville senior, and Sgt. Rebecca Tolbert, have a discussion in the police station on Palmetto Street. Beeler said she thinks the UTC campus police are always very approachable and easy to talk to.

by Megan Ferguson

UTC has experienced a steady increase of drug and narcotic violations, rising from 65 to 80 since 2008, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Although most crime has remained relatively flat at the University with one rape and 28 assaults reported, an increase of drugs and narcotic violations was also reported, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s annual report.

Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor, said that these types of crimes are rising all over the place for two reasons: population increase and an environment where students feel  more comfortable reporting crime.

The population of UTC has grown from 8,000 to 11,000 since 2001, according to the TBI.

Cantrell said for drug-related cases, a higher student population would have more students that are going to be willing to take those kind of risks and opportunities.

Cantrell wants students to understand how serious it is if they choose to do drugs. Not only do students put themselves at risk for legal and judicial problem, but they also face student conduct issues on campus. The processes are parallel, he said.

Students will face a list of other issues, such as health and addiction issues, Cantrell said.

“You can’t guarantee someone that you are buying the drugs from hasn’t done something to them,” he said.

Cantrell wants students to know when they report crimes, their reports will be taken seriously, investigated, and charges will be pressed when appropriate.

“A college campus that says it has no crime is a college campus that is not reporting its crime accurately,” he said. “College campuses are like little cities, and we have all the same problems a little city would have. Unfortunately that does include crime sometimes.”

Chattanooga senior Emily Peigen said the campus police is very helpful, but only when they are reachable.

There have been times when Peigen has called the campus police, although the situations were not emergencies, but has had to wait a long time for them to show up.

“You have their number to get in touch with them and sometimes it goes to voice mail and you have to wait 40 minutes for them to call you back,” Peigen said.

One of the calls Peigen said she made to University police was for car problems. The other was for a class she had to have availability to, but the campus police didn’t come around to unlock it.

University Police Chief Robert Ratchford said that although the campus police handles every call as an emergency, the calls are prioritized based on the severity of the situation.

The campus police have a certain number of officers on duty, and if calls are piling up, the most serious of emergencies will be put first, he said.

Ratchford is by no means saying that Peigen’s calls were not emergencies. However, if an officer is taking a report from a student that was just victimized, priority lies with that student.

“That [Peigen’s calls] was an emergency, we understand that, but we won’t put a lesser emergency first,” Ratchford said.

He echoed Cantrell in saying he wants students to become involved if they see suspicious activity or a crime in progress.

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