Elon University Police Chief Joe LeMire began his role on campus in March 2021, after a lengthy recruitment process that started in 2020. LeMire sat down with Elon News Network to discuss the 2020 Fire and Safety Report and safety measures on campus.
I want to start with the fire and safety report that we just read over a little bit there. I know you didn't begin in your role until March of this year, and the report is from 2020. Moving forward from the report, where are the pain points for campus security?
“I think on any college campus, anything related to larceny and theft is a crime, dating violence and sexual violence and then certainly drugs, alcohol and weapons, which is what's recorded on there. So, those are areas that we would focus on related to either making an arrest, which would be recorded there, or the referral, the discipline, which would be if we didn't make an arrest or didn't write a citation, it would go to [Student] Conduct on campus.”
Alcohol and drug law violations for disciplinary action make up the highest of all offenses. Can you tell me how you distinguish between those violations that are processed versus the ones that are handled through campus?
“We give the officers discretion on what would happen in that case, I've seen. Remember, the 2020 report was mostly COVID time. So the campus was fairly shut down and then it was very covered as to regulations or who could gather. So those were low, but usually it's the officer who makes a discretion as to ‘Am I going write a citation or not?’ and that could be based on the situation, the behavior, the cooperativeness of the person they're dealing with. We have a very close relationship with [Student] Conduct, so it's a great process, and we often send stuff through there. So I would expect the numbers, referrals to be higher than arrests.”
We've just looked and mentioned burglaries and motor vehicle thefts, and those numbers were very low last year. But you know, we've already kind of seen those numbers go up, could you tell me a little more about how you're handling those?
“The difference is going to be ... motor vehicle theft would be the stealing of the vehicle, the breaking into the vehicle and would not be something that's recorded through Clery. So that's not actually “Clery crime.” But obviously, it's an area that we want to focus on.
So a number of things we've done is we've met with the students down at Crest where a lot of the things that occurred, we're putting in more security cameras in that area, and really putting it out to campus and the town of telling people the most important thing is to lock your car. A lot of people drive a fob-driven vehicle now. So we're telling them to keep that out of the vehicle because people that are going to go into an unlocked vehicle are automatically going to touch the brake, push the button and see if the car starts. It's going to have the fob in the car and that's how the cars get stolen.
So some of it is education and letting people know that some of it is what we do is police, Burlington police we're working with because the suspects in those crimes are juveniles. We know who they are. They're going through the system and then the juvenile system related to them in the justice system, and they do what they do with those cases but we do have those identified.”
To view the full interview, click below:
Could you kind of tell me about any, I know you mentioned the security cameras in Crest, but any new safety measures you're looking to implement any changes to the blue light poles we have around campus, anything like that?
“I think mostly people always have access to those types of things, but it's a lot of the educational piece. So one of the things I'm starting up from a community policing standpoint is our liaison work with housing. We have certain sergeants, corporals and officers that are assigned to every neighborhood, we really want to get them to start having those relationships with RAs and other people in those neighborhoods.
The whole idea of community policing is solving problems as they occur and this is an obvious problem, whether it happens in the Oaks area, the Crest area or elsewhere. They should be working with those officers and it's a pilot program, so there's going to be some bumps as we get going, but we want those relationships to develop over time because that's really educational-wise where we're going to solve these issues.”
Violent crime rates are kind of increasing across the country as well, you know, they're up by a third in Atlanta, they're up by a third in New York. They're up by well over 100% as far across the country as Portland, and they're really high in North Carolina as well. Could you kind of tell me as a nationwide statistic, how are we trying to combat that here in the town of Elon and more specifically on our campus?
“I think the untold story in violent crime, and I think it's really related in the larger cities to homicide and things of that nature, it's really the recruitment of police officers across the country is down by 40%. So when you look at these police departments, a lot of people, the pendulum is swinging back to say we need officers on the road. But at the point someone says we need to say 50 officers on the road to the point those 50 officers are on the road could be 12 to 18 months. Recruiting an officer, training an officer, field training [an] officer to enough where they could work on their own on a road, that is a long time. So the pendulum is swinging back. It's going to take some more police on the road. There's a lot of changes to the policy of how police operate, but I think that whole package is going to work well and I would say in the coming years to get that crime rate down.”