Every Thursday night when I come home from a trip to the bar after a long day at school, I am greeted outside my apartment complex by a swarm of unarmed guards wearing bright red polo shirts who ask repeatedly for my identification.
It feels like I’m attempting to get into an exclusive club or onto an airplane or something, but in reality, I’m just trying to get to Building 1 of the University Park Apartments, or as they are more commonly referred to as, “the dorms.”
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until around 2 a.m., the Department of Public Safety cordons off the dorms with something collectively known as “lock down,” when community service assistants from “the Matador Patrol” are supposed to check the IDs and dorm residency status of anybody trying to get into the UPA.
Speaking for my friends and I and countless other dorm residents, it’s one of the most annoying parts about coming home drunk (or not drunk) on the weekend.
Getting held up in a line of car or foot traffic as residents without small colored “Resident 2005-06” stickers on the back of their student ID cards try to coerce CSAs into letting them inside the UPA gets old fast. It’s meant to protect the UPA from vagrants and other party animals looking to “get all riled up” on a college campus. Bah humbug.
It’s a silly program for a number of reasons. Despite the “you don’t know what’s good for you defense,” the inconvenience factor does carry with it some weight. Every single time I get stopped because I don’t have my little resident sticker, I make the same suggestion: Why don’t the CSAs bring resident stickers out to the check-in point and distribute them? It’s not as if there are off-campus hoodlums plotting and scheming to get into the dorms a few weeks down the road who’d abuse that policy. I’m always denied.
And nobody’s really ever made a convincing case to me for the program’s effectiveness. My friend has a “no-stop” policy when approaching the lock-down entrance, which is funny to watch. He blows right on by the CSAs as if they don’t exist. It takes confidence, first of all, and not much else. You can also talk your way inside if you don’t have an ID a lot of the time, and the not-so-tall UPA fences are not very hard to climb. I know because I’ve climbed them.
Obviously, I haven’t seen the numerical breakdown of dorm crime reduction since the implementation of lockdown. Considering that the program has been around for so long, I’m sure Student Housing officials are regularly updated on its successes.
The 2004 recent campus crime statistics, produced by the Department of Public Safety as part of its compliance with federal law, report that crime in the dorms is down in a lot of areas, especially burglary, which saw a 34 percent drop.
Some categories of crimes increased, however, including rape – there were five in 2004 and two in 2003 – and liquor and drug law violations, as well as weapons possessions. Is this because we are more vulnerable to outsiders, or because CSUN police (and CSAs, to some degree) are catching more of the crooks?
What has been valuable and what continues to be valuable are police and CSA patrols through the UPA. The implementation of a police patrol focused specially on housing in recent years has done some good, and I myself have seen officers riding around on bikes asking hordes of people what they’re doing hanging around in a parking lot. It seems that the police are recognizing that a lot of campus crime is, in effect, dorm crime.
We need more of that in the dorms. Forget this lock down nonsense. Forget the inconvenience of a flawed and poorly administered program. Any money being spent on this antiquated placebo should be allocated elsewhere, toward CSA patrols, late-night escorts, and CSUN police crime prevention programs. These non-invasive measures are much stronger, even if they do not make a good photo op for a PR newsletter.
Resident advisers can continue to play a role in patrolling the UPA, and even step up their efforts to promote responsible alcohol (and recreational drug) use by focusing on specific levels of policy violation. Because I had an underage friend written up because an RA saw a bottle of alcohol through a window in her occupied apartment, I know that RAs are more than able to devote more time to efficient area patrol.
It’s either that or someone provides every dorm resident a flyer that describes, point-by-point, the reasons why gates are locked and red polo shirt defenses are in place outside what should be a homely, welcoming “dorm” community.
Ryan Denham can be reached at email@example.com.