Art Chenoweth

The very smell of crime seems to intoxicate everyone. One of my jobs with the Vanguard is to write the crime blotter each week. Numerous students, and even little old ladies who live at the Ione Plaza, have told me the blotter fascinates them. It also provokes strong reactions in people who get mentioned in them.

I wasn’t in the Vanguard office last Friday when this happened, but I was told a man came storming in to protest his name being listed in a blotter story. He was a 20-year-old. He got a criminal trespass citation for skateboarding in a prohibited area, the University Center Building parking lot. This lot is located just behind the Jasmine Tree restaurant.

The man took especial umbrage to the story saying he was skateboarding under a No Trespassing sign, when he said he was not. It depends on what you mean by “under.” The lot displays two big signs at its entrance which state, “No Trespassing or Loitering.” They go on to state access is permitted only to faculty, staff, students and guests of Oregon University System. In even larger letters the signs spell out “No Skateboarding or Rollerblading.” I would have to believe that skateboarders become fully aware of this. I have no sympathy for this man’s complaint, whether he was boarding directly under one of the signs or somewhere else in the lot.

I take full responsibility for what originally gets written into the crime blotter stories. What gets printed becomes subject to the approval of my bosses, Kara Kelley, the news editor, and Erin Lloyd, the editor in chief. In doing this chore, I get the full cooperation of John Fowler, director of the Campus Public Safety Office. I also get the patient assistance of Steve Coop, community resource officer. However, they do not tell me what to put in and what to leave out or how to write it. They merely provide the information as listed on the official blotter.

I confess I feel a certain social obligation in what I put in and what I leave out. I never omit anything I believe of importance to the Portland State Community. I feel a social responsibility to make it unpleasant for people to commit antisocial acts.

People don’t like to see their names in the blotter. I, and CPSO, fall on the side of going lightly. A recent big hullabaloo at a campus residential hall went reported without names and the incident was merely referred to Student Conduct. We never print names of minors or of victims. We do print names of park exclusions. If you make the mistake of drinking beer in the Park Blocks at 1 a.m. and you’re discovered, your name will likely make print.

Some students and non-students think the parking structures provide ideal spots for drug use, sex and theft. Campus officers also know this and they maintain regular patrols of the parking lots. If there’s an arrest, the name goes in the Vanguard blotter.

Quite often I include crimes with no names, generally when the names are not known. This is again part of my own feeling of social responsibility. I think readers need to become aware there are people who leave sexually explicit messages on voice mail. They need to know that telephone harassment will be traced back to the caller. They need to know there are people who walk through the campus naked.

We tend to report all thefts, because we want people to be more careful. Quite often, the theft is of unattended property. Sometimes it happens in a locked office, which means someone has a key who shouldn’t have. Sometimes a theft is discovered after some weeks or even months. Reporting this may inspire people to check on their belongings. I find it hard to believe, but sometimes bikes are left locked on the same rack for weeks and the owner doesn’t discover the theft until much later. Cars parked with visible valuables inside become frequent prey to thieves. Backpacks left in rooms or open offices invite sticky fingers. The Vanguard reports all these, not so much to titillate readers but to remind people to pay attention to their property.

As Fowler frequently points out, many of our violations and potential violations have nothing to do with students, staff or faculty. Being in the center of a metropolitan city, we have unknown people wandering through all the time. Some are looking to steal things. Some are looking to trespass. So long as they follow the same policies that apply to students, faculty and staff, they are welcome, or at least tolerated. When they don’t, they may expect a visit from a campus safety officer and, of course, a possible mention in the Crime Blotter.