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Campus security report shows increase in alcohol usage

November 11, 2011

Although the number of citations for underage alcohol consumption and drug use across campus has increased since 2009, Chief of University Police Richard Trende states that UW-River Falls is still among the lowest offenders when compared to the UW-System and that a one-year increase is not cause for concern.

“UWRF is a safe campus, and our job is to keep it safe,” Trende said. “If we look at the data, an increase from one year to the next is not a huge concern. If it was over a 5-year span, then we would have a problem.”

The Annual Campus Security Report, which was emailed to all students and employees of the University, states that the total number of liquor law violations totaled 235 in 2010. This marks an increase from the 125 violations in 2009. Drug abuse violations have increased from 17 reported incidents in 2009 to 71 in 2010. There has also been a general increase in incidents in all campuses in the UW-System.

However, Thomas Pederson, who took over late last year in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, notes that there are several factors contributing to the increase at UWRF. The most notable is the increase from two full-time police officers to three. “With the additional staff, you are going to have additional opportunities to cover more areas,” Pederson said. Pederson also added that the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities has had a more collaborated effort with the University Police to get a more accurate representation of the number of incidents throughout the community.

Before, Peterson noted, the campus had to rely on public safety, which is limited in the control they have over arrests and citations. The current system has the public safety office transitioning to a police department. Trende says the complete transition should be done in two or three years.

With the transition to a police department, Trende says they are better equipped to protect the campus community. He noted that through the transition, the department is able to get state and federal grants to help cover the costs of equipment.

“For example, we were able to get all our radios replaced for free,” Trende said.

Over the last few years, more UW schools have been transitioning to a police department rather than public safety. This stemmed from a task force that was established by former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and then by UW-System President Kevin Reilly in the wake of school shootings that occurred in places such as Northern Illinois University in 2008. Trende said that this set off nationwide efforts in which to develop plans for campus safety.

The current department has an authorized staff of a chief who is a licensed police officer, three full-time police officers, three full-time public safety officers and six part-time police officers. Chief of Police Trende has been involved in law enforcement for over 40 years.

While there are increased efforts to curb underage consumption and drug use, Pederson states that ultimately it comes down to the individual to make responsible choices. “You make your own decisions, and those decisions have consequences,” said Pederson.

The Annual Campus Security Report is published to comply with the Federal Law formally known as the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, which was renamed the Clery Act.