By LISA MANRIQUEZ and TREVOR DOBBINS
Amarillo has a high crime rate, according to the real estate data website Neighborhood Scout. “Forty-five out of every 1,000 residents in Amarillo are a crime victim, making the city one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities,” the website reports.
But Amarillo College police officers say there is no reason to be overly worried about crime on campus. “Yes, there is crime but very, very little crime here at Amarillo College,” Scott Acker, the AC police chief, said.
Morice Jackson, an AC police officer, said the statistics and data about police calls can appear misleading. “By state law we are required to report statistics for safety service calls and for service reports taken,” Jackson said. “There is always something going on, but it’s not a crime. For example, a student may need a jumpstart. That’s a call of service, which is also reported. This is not a crime, it’s an incident,” he said.
The most common crimes on campus are theft, according to Jackson. “Many incoming students at AC are new to the campus and leave stuff out like laptops, cell phones and purses in plain view in their cars,” Jackson said.
Officials say theft is not the only concern at AC. There have been a number of parking tickets issued. AC students are getting fined more than $100 for not parking in a designated parking spot or parking on the opposite side of incoming traffic, Jackson said. Dustin Owens, an AC police officer, has also noticed issues when it comes to parking on campus, “AC students are not paying attention. If the sign says ‘don’t park,’ don’t park there,” Owens said.
Distracted students are another concern. “AC students are not aware of their surroundings,” Jackson said. “They are not paying attention. They are on their cell phones, walking into curbs and running into cars. This is considered an incident,” he said. Jackson said when students use common sense and stay aware of their surroundings there is little reason to worry. “There is not very much going as far as crime at AC.”
The AC police department educates students on not leaving items of value in their vehicles or unattended on campus. “The most important thing is not to allow a criminal to commit a crime. Be smart, be safe and lock up your valuables,” Acker said.
Students have differing opinions about safety on campus. Dalton Peoples, an engineering major, said he isn’t worried about crime on campus. “I don’t feel unsafe. I see police patrolling parking lots and walking around campus,” he said. Klint Sihaphonh, a mechanical engineering major, said safety is one of the advantages of attending AC. “Considering that Amarillo College is a small community college, it makes me feel more comfortable and safer rather than a big university campus.” On nights Sihaphonh is on campus after dark, he said he doesn’t worry. “I know cops will be near, checking the parking lots and walking areas.” AC has three officers patrolling the campuses, Owen said.
Although there is a police presence on campus, Jordan Nuner, Motion Picture Production Major, has a night class this semester and said she has a few concerns about safety. “The school would be safer if there was better lighting. Also having more officers patrolling later in the day would make me feel safer,” she said.