Augustana University addresses suspicious activity near campus

Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Augustana University campus is on high alert on Friday after reports of a break-in and a suspicious person being seen near off-campus student housing.

As the weather gets warmer and more people are spending time outdoors, there’s a rise in suspicious activity reports. The recent reports on the campus of Augustana are a reminder to college students to be aware of their surroundings.

On Thursday around 2:00 a.m., an Augustana student living in a house near campus found an unknown man had broken in and was in her bedroom. He left the house soon after she woke up and noticed he was there.

This adds to other suspicious activity that Augustana Campus Safety has been monitoring. Just last week, a suspicious person was spotted on Summit Avenue. When approached by a Campus Safety officer, they ran to a car and drove off. The license plate number of that car was connected to a registered sex offender.

“We did send out a campus alert just to let the campus know what’s going on and also encourage them to stay alert and be a helpful part of keeping the campus safe,” said Rick Tupper, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety. “We all play that role and if they don’t know what’s going on, how do we ask them to play that role?”

This trend is not only being seen on college campuses. Tupper says the rise of suspicious activity as weather warms us is actually common.

“We’ve all been cooped up all winter long and so everybody is excited to get outside and unfortunately the bad guys like to get outside, too,” said Tupper. “This time of year, it’s not unusual for us to see an increase in some activities and that can be from bike thefts to car burglaries to window peekers. Bad people that are going to do that are also see that they can blend in a little more.”

Suspicious activity itself is actually difficult to define.

“It’s a pretty broad topic. What that means is basically anything that’s out of the ordinary, something that doesn’t seem right,” said Sam Clemens, the Public Information Officer for the Sioux Falls Police Department. “It might just be kind of a gut feeling that you have that something weird is going on.”

The earlier that law enforcement can identify suspicious activity, the better the chances are that they can prevent future crimes.

“We don’t have to live in fear, by any means. We want them to feel comfortable reporting that stuff so that we can deal with it before it becomes a problem,” said Tupper. “While we don’t want to create anxiety, we do want them to be aware and use that awareness so they can keep themselves safe both on campus and off campus. Again, we’re encouraging them to let us know when it happens.”

“We run into that quite a bit, where people see something, and then after the fact they go ‘oh, I saw that, but I didn’t think it was something I should call about’. That’s absolutely a time when you should be calling,” said Clemens. “If you see something that’s out of the ordinary or something that you think is suspicious, we need to know about it and check it out.” Clemens lists examples of people in a parking lot trying to open car doors or just seeing a person in a space where a person normally wouldn’t be.

Safety on college campuses has also been at the forefront of the minds of Augustana University students as a sister college, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, dealt with a student who was charged with having ammo and knives in his dorm.

“The main thing people need to do is be aware of their surroundings. A lot of the time, people just get caught up in the normal day-to-day stuff. There are a lot of times you’re going to see stuff and if you see something that seems a little off don’t put yourself in a position. Call campus security, call a police department, and let them know what the suspicious behavior is,” said Clemens.

Clemens also said that many would be surprised to know how many times a break-in or theft occurs just because a car, garage or house is left unlocked. Preventing a crime can sometimes be as simple as locking things up, being aware of your surroundings, and reporting what you see.