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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Commentary: Hullabaloo break-in should prompt reflection on security

Hullabaloo+Hall
Photo by Photo by Brandon Holmes
Hullabaloo Hall

Editor’s Note: The names of crime victims have been removed or altered to provide anonymity. 

“The last place you would think to feel unsafe is in your own bed.”

For engineering freshman Chris, who preferred only her first name be used, and other Aggies on campus, this expectation has been shattered. On Jan. 23, Chris found herself badly shaken and afraid for her safety after a home invasion occured in her Hullabaloo Hall dorm room while she was sleeping. 

“I wake up around 5 a.m. to a hand grabbing my upper arm. I sit up, very startled and confused, and after a few moments, I realize there is a person moving under my loft bed,” Chris said in an email to The Battalion. 

“I grab my phone and go to text my mom and dad — I know the police is the obvious answer, but I was horribly frightened and not thinking realistically — but my phone dies immediately and I do not contact anyone,” Chris wrote. “I tried to stay very quiet and still because I was scared of what could happen if I tried to wake my roommate up or speak with the person under my bed. I didn’t have a way to keep track of time, but it was definitely several minutes that I heard movement and heavy breathing underneath. I heard him whispering something, it sounded like he was trying to get my attention, but I couldn’t make it out.”

“After a little while, he came out from under the bed and looked me in the face,” Chris said. “I whispered to him, “Can you leave, please? Please.’ 

“There was a faint light from the window, but I wasn’t able to make out facial features. He returned to his place under the loft bed.”

Chris was fearful of the man’s intentions and did not know if he was armed. From under the loft, she could hear the sound of his zipper and mumbling for about two minutes. He then moved toward the bathroom area and she briefly glimpsed a college-aged male. 

“I finally tried to wake up my roommate by throwing several stuffed animals at her. I told her to call the police immediately and that there had been a man in our room. She is quick to it and dials them up, and at that point, I saw the door to the outer hall open, and the guy exits from our bathroom area,” Chris said. “Due to hallway lights, I was able to see his side profile decently well, but only for a second or two.” 

Chris’ account of that early morning is the stuff of nightmares for many. After such an unnerving experience, one should be able to rely on authority figures to address and resolve the issue. Unfortunately, Chris did not receive the reassurance and competence that she hoped for, and has since cast doubts on campus police’s documentation of events.

“There have been zero follow-ups or communication from police or hall staff,” Chris said. “I know if you compare the story I give you to the one in the police report it will not read exactly the same. I do not know why there are discrepancies in the police report to what actually happened.”

For example, the University Police Department, or UPD, reported that Chris claimed to have been grabbed by the leg in her initial statements, but she describes having been grabbed by the arm in later interviews.

“I took care to document what happened right afterward so that I’d be able to recall details and keep to the truth,” Chris said.

Chris also described some minor inconsistency in the order of events described by the UPD. 

“The police report wasn’t crazy wrong, just the details of him grabbing my arm and not my leg, as well as the event order. I was woken up by being grabbed, and then he stayed under my bed. I didn’t wake up when he came in and I don’t know how long he was there before he woke me up.”

When interviewed by The Battalion, UPD Lt. Bobby Richardson said it is common for victim’s stories to change after the fact, but upon reviewing body cam footage, his colleagues confirmed that Chris initially said she had been grabbed by the arm and not the leg. “We all make mistakes,” Richardson said in response.

Having footage available, whether of the crime itself or the immediate aftermath, is extremely valuable. Without the objective record of body cam footage, it would have been impossible to verify the correct version of events. 

Campus police should be advocates for victims and do everything in their power to ensure they feel heard and safe under their protection. UPD officers must pay greater attention to detail to avoid any possible future discrepancies.

To avoid similar security incidents, we’d ideally foster an environment where people do not break into others’ dorm rooms. A tight-knit campus community, where Aggies look out for other Aggies, would guarantee greater safety. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. Realistically, we need to ensure students and the university are in the best possible positions to minimize harm when bad things do happen.

“I feel like a lot of students are not super diligent about keeping their dorm rooms locked, which could put one in an unfavorable situation. Two super important things: lock your doors and never forget to plug your phone in,” Chris said. 

Richardson reiterated the importance of these measures. 

There’s nowhere students should feel safer than at the heart of campus. But, Chris’ confidence has understandably been compromised.  

“After the incident, I went home to be with my family for a little while, and when I returned to campus I slept at my brother’s house for the rest of the week,” Chris said. 

“The incident has really hurt my sense of security, especially on campus and in my dorm room.” 

While officers and their body cams can’t be everywhere at once, the installation of cameras in residence hall hallways could be an alternative. While some Aggies have proposed this solution in the past, others may understandably worry about their privacy. Yet, I’m sure most would agree that there is no greater violation of privacy than having your dorm broken into while you’re sleeping inside. Creating a situation in which intruders can be held accountable and stopped from repeatedly invading students’ rooms, helps prevent the greatest possible net loss of privacy. Additionally, having CCTV footage available has been shown to increase a crime’s chances of being solved. 

Whether or not cameras are the solution to this problem, every student deserves to feel safe in their dorms. It is Texas A&M’s responsibility to ensure that this is carried out. 

Zachary Freeman is an anthropology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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