NIU Police offer security at off-campus parties

By Chelsey Boutan

If the NIU police show up at your door, it’s probably not because you invited them to your party.

But a new policy will allow students to have NIU police provide security services at off-campus parties and social events located at private residences on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Off Campus Security Policy was created to make students feel safer and to diminish the misconception that the NIU campus community is not safe, said John Jones, the associate vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.

“I’m very receptive to the program, and I think it gives students the opportunity to have another level of comfort and security as the university supports them in these social settings,” Jones said.

Jill Zambito, director of Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD), said two similar policies are already in place for social events held by fraternities or sororities, and student organizations. She said the Off Campus Security Policy was implemented for the first time last weekend and “went very well,” as one student utilized the security services for his party.

Zambito said a student who seeks to use the service is required to turn in registration forms by 4:30 p.m. on Monday during the week of his or her party. Because the program is new, Zambito said if a student turns the form in late, SILD would try to make it work as long as police officers are available the night of the party. As of press time, no students were registered for this weekend.

According to the Off-Campus Registration Policy and Operating Procedures, after meeting with a SILD staff member, a “student-host” must also meet with an NIU police officer to review “security service arrangements.” The document stated that security would be granted based on “size of the party,” “history with the individual and event” and “any relevant knowledge about guests invited.”

NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith said police officers at a party will patrol inside and outside the residence, but will also “interact with students.” He said they may check IDs at the door and have students wear wristbands or get their hands stamped if they can legally drink.

“We can check IDs before people enter the party, just like at clubs,” Smith said. “Starting off, there are probably going to be some kinks to work out, but it is going to evolve as we move forward with this.”

Smith said students still have to abide by federal, state, city and university laws and regulations at the parties. The officers will address any illegal activity they observe, he said.

Smith said his only potential concern in regard to the policy is students may not take advantage of it.

“It’s just a matter of if people want to have us there,” Smith said. “The ones that just want to have a good time and want to be safe, they’ll take advantage of us and have us out there.”

Junior English major Steve Birk said he would not utilize the security services and doesn’t think other students would either.

“If the police were there, A: No on would show up at my party,” he said. “And B: Probably everyone would leave because there would not be a lot of drinking involved.”

Leandra Hudson, senior family and child studies major, said she would consider having officers at her party if she had a lot of guests that weren’t close friends.

“I feel like it’s a good idea because of safety reasons,” she said. “If things get out of hand, the police are right there.”

Austin Quick, Student Association Senate speaker, was on the safety task force committee that developed the idea to have campus police provide security services at off-campus parties. Quick said the policy will help prevent violent crimes like the shooting of student Steven Agee II, which occured at an off-campus party in November, from happening again.

At the same time, Quick said NIU doesn’t have more crime in comparison to other college campuses. The policy will help students feel safer because there will be an increased police presence, he said.

“It’s forward thinking to be really able to implement something like this, which puts a lot of resources into making sure students feel safe,” Quick said. “People sometimes focus on the negative things, but this is something that we should be thankful for what the university has done in supporting this program.”

Jones said the policy will continue to be reviewed, but he is not sure how long it will be implemented for.

“We would like to think that this program will continue, but for how long we’re not certain,” Jones said. “We have to look and see if there is a need – meaning if we are providing the service and students are not truly utilizing the service because they are feeling safe, secure, and don’t need it, then that’s a reason perhaps why we would not provide the service anymore. We will just have to see how things pan out in the future.”