Increased crime encourages local police to act


Jackie Pape

Following multiple instances of local criminal activity, police work with the community to improve student safety.

On Sept. 9, Cole Medrano woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

His slumber interrupted by the intrusive firearm pointed at him, he jolted awake. Medrano scrambled for words to say to the masked perpetrator. Was he still asleep, he wondered? Unfortunately, this was no nightmare.

After three years of living on residence halls, most seniors opt to move off campus. Living in a single-family home provides seniors with newfound freedom. But a sense of safety has been impaired after a series of recent criminal incidents. Now, the university is responding to the concerns.

Two weeks into the academic year, a house on Long Drive was the target of an armed robbery. Medrano and his roommates, Sam Appling and Daniel Nelli, were home when two men entered through the back door around 9 a.m. The perpetrators demanded the students lie on the floor and to hand over Xanax and cash, none of which they had.

“We offered them computers, phones and wallets, but they didn’t want any of it,” Nelli said.

Appling said they quickly realized that the robbers mistook all three of them for the previous tenant. Rooms were searched, but after a shot was fired and none of the students injured, the intruders left.

The Winston-Salem Police Department arrived to the scene minutes after the students dialed 9-1-1.

“Two squad cars showed up immediately,” Medrano said. “Police cars, detectives, the forensics team, a canine unit and Wake Forest Police were outside our house.”

The next day, the Wake Forest University Police Department (WFUPD) contracted Winston-Salem city officers to do 24-hour patrolling in neighborhoods where Wake Forest students live. As of Sept. 27, all three suspects involved in the armed robbery have been arrested.

“We are trying to make the area less friendly for mischief,” said President Nathan O. Hatch.

As requested, officers now regularly patrol senior Kiley Boland’s neighborhood; yet, she can’t dismiss the fear from recent events. Although the university is working to ensure off-campus safety, students and parents are disenchanted.

“My parents don’t think the school is preventative. They’re just reactionary,” Boland said. “Kids shouldn’t need to get shot and houses robbed for them to do something.”

Andrew McDonald, a Wake Forest student, understands the worries but thinks students need to act more responsibly off campus.

“On campus we’re insulated with the honor code, and it’s not a big deal to leave your laptop in the library,” McDonald said. “But outside the bubble, you have to be aware of your surroundings.”

Most students are becoming more mindful, yet some don’t think Winston-Salem is as safe as they thought. While people struggle with such feelings, Javar Jones, a senior from Winston-Salem, has a more optimistic opinion. Jones explained that generally locals don’t want students to have bad perceptions of the city, but there is a divide.

“The majority of members have an unwavering amount of respect for Wake Forest,” Jones said. “But the minority community tends to be more pessimistic because of the things they hear about students throwing parties, just being affluent and aloof.”

In an effort to combat such stereotypes, students are taking matters into their own hands.

“We don’t walk alone, especially at night,” said senior Libby Rudolf. “We keep our phones on us and lock the doors, even when we’re inside.”

It’s no easy task for campus police and city officers to keep students safe, but the collective measures seem promising.

“Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can make our campus and the surrounding area immune to violence,” said Sergeant Lesia Finney. “But Wake Forest is taking measures to prevent similar incidents.”

According to the Winston-Salem Police Department records, in 2015 there were 154 offenses in Wake Forest communities near campus. Such areas are considered in these records, but the numbers do not strictly reflect incidents concerning only Wake Forest students. Offenses include rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.