BY CAYDEN SANDERS
Recently, the City of Hays has seen an increase in crime, especially during weekends in the area near campus. Last Thursday, Hays Police Department Chief Don Scheibler and University Police Chief Terry Pierce talked to the Student Government Association about the issues that have been happening in the area.
With the recent crime in the area, Scheibler wants to keep the town safe.
“We have seen an increase in crime in the area, and the Hays Police Department wants everyone to be safe, not only for the residents of Hays but the students as well,” Scheibler said.
He said this year is different than years past, as college life is getting back to normal, and people are socializing more after the pandemic. Law enforcement has seen an increase in people interfering with investigations or disrespecting officers on duty.
“We have noticed that since COVID, people are more confrontational and feel that they need to inject themselves into the situation when we are doing a routine investigation,” Scheibler said. “We don’t want to call backup for the situation when we are just trying to de-escalate a situation.”
For Pierce, this is his first year in Hays. Coming from Pittsburg State University, Pierce said the level of crime between the two schools is similar.
“Since coming to Hays, there has been crime, but this is nothing out of the normal I have seen,” Pierce said. “The number of cases is about the same at Pitt as here at Fort Hays.”
But for Scheibler, who has been a part of the Hays PD since the 1990s, he believes this year has seen issues.
“We have had people assaulting our officers, drunk students and drugs run through this year, but this isn’t out of the ordinary,” he said. “We normally see this in other years, but the situations within the cases have been different because of the confrontation of citizens.”
As the year goes on, Scheibler said the rest of the semester will be a lighter time of year at the college because of the end of the year and students wanting to study harder to end the semester. Cold weather is another factor.
But Schiebler said students will return to partying once school is back in session and the weather gets warmer.
With the first semester coming to a close soon, both departments want to keep students safe and allow them to have fun in moderation.
“We want to keep the students of Fort Hays State safe however that looks, and we just want what’s best for our students while they are here,” Pierce said
“The City of Hays loves the college and the college students that come to this town, and our job as police is to keep everyone safe. And we want to keep doing that, but we just don’t want to keep having issues while trying to keep people safe,” Scheibler said.
Drinking is not the only type of crime Hays PD is seeing this year. As the amount of drugs in the area has increased, the department is seeing more sellers within the area.
Scheibler said alleged sexual assault cases are at a 10-year high in Hays. Not only that, but the number of sexual assault cases is up in the area. Some of them deal with the factor of alcohol.
As the department has seen the effects of drinking on others, the impact of that has affected officers as well. Patrol officers have seen people injecting themselves into investigations that have nothing to do with the people who have made their attention apparent to the officer.
Scheibler said from reports made that it is not only at college parties as there have been times at routine traffic stops that have seen people interfering with police on scene. But on weekends, officers have been dealing with violence verbally and physically, as beer cans have been thrown at officers who are checking a house party for noise complaints.
With the issue in front of the police departments, UPD wants students to know that it has the same authority as the city police department and wants students to feel safe if they need something.
“Students can always call us if they need something. We always have an officer on duty,” Pierce said. “We are always willing to help our students whenever they need help.”
The Hays PD wants everyone in the city to be safe, whether it’s going to school, going to work or parents taking their kids to a practice. They want the citizens of the town to feel protected.
“Our main job is to keep people safe. That is our main goal and our top priority,” Scheibler said. “We want to keep the city of Hays safe and the people of Hays to think this town is a safe place to live.”