Carleton students assume that they are safe on campus, and think of Northfield as a quaint, sleepy Minnesotan town whose tiny downtown and minimal nightlife pose no threat to students.
In a phrase, a bastion of “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment” where students “can leave their laptops anywhere,” according to senior Alissa Severson. However, several crimes in the last year have jolted some students and faculty out of complacency and raised serious questions about the security of Carleton’s campus and the surrounding perimeter.
Vice President and Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner alerted the entire student body to the appearance of date rape drugs, possibly GHB, Ketamine, or rohypnol, in the Northfield community.
This notification is one of several in recent terms, including the physical assault of a student in January and a string of burglaries in June, in which the suspects killed the dogs of their victims. Additionally, there have been two burglaries reported by nearby local businesses on Division Street.
There isn’t one singular explanation for the latest incidents, although they were some of the most extreme that Carleton has witnessed in recent years. Some are drawing connections between these events and a growth in local crime and drug use. One Northfield resident speculated that these occurrences may be related to a growing “drug epidemic” in the town since the 2000s.
In 2007, former Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith alleged that close to 300 youths under 30 in the Northfield community were heroin users, although he also said that this trend did not extend to Carleton or St. Olaf.
The same Northfield resident also claimed that the locals’ perceive Carleton students and faculty as, “having a lot more money than Oles or other townies” and that Carleton students “party“, making them easy targets.
In spite of these claims, Director of Security Services Wayne Eisenhuth maintained that, “Northfield and Carleton are both safe communities, but that doesn’t mean bad things can’t happen.” Eisenhuth named a variety of safety measures that Security has beefed up in the last few years, including the addition of new emergency phones evenly spread over campus and the implementation of the CarlAlert system, which sends students a text message in the case of serious campus emergencies.
However, Security performs a variety of other tasks, including tackling minor facilities issues, monitoring parking, and issuing temporary OneCards to students who have lost theirs and cannot make it to Campus Services.
By January, registration to CarlAlert will be mandatory for all students on campus. Freshmen were already required to register in the fall, but sophomores, juniors, and seniors will have to provide their cell phone numbers to sign up for CarlAlert before they are allowed to register for winter term classes. Eisenhuth hopes that this system will keep Carleton students aware of immediate threats in the area and stay safe.