Stuart Bedics, assistant chief of the Lehigh Police Department, sits in his office on a rainy day with his eyes turned toward the television screen. As he clicks a remote, the channels change between images of cars driving along streets, people jogging along a path and empty corners in front of various buildings.
These images are captured by more than 50 security cameras scattered throughout Lehigh’s campus and the surrounding Bethlehem area. The city has about 75,000 residents, according to the United States Census of 2013, in addition to the 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Lehigh.
In the midst of several off-campus break-ins, including one on Carlton Avenue this past summer, both the Bethlehem and Lehigh Police departments have been taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of Lehigh students. One such precaution is the addition of 10 more security cameras to the area.
According to Bedics, who was a member of the Bethlehem police force for 25 years and retired as chief of police prior to joining the LUPD force a year and half ago, these cameras help him and the rest of the LUPD keep students who frequent the city safe.
“What’s nice about the cameras is that they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Bedics said. “They don’t take vacation, and they don’t call in sick.”
Some of these Lehigh students chose to reside off campus in Bethlehem homes and apartments rather than in on-campus dorms.
According to Residential Services records, of the 4,904 undergraduate students enrolled at Lehigh this semester, approximately 3,375 live on campus in dorms, while around 1,500 either live off campus or commute.
Students are allowed to move off campus after they have completed their sophomore year. Many take advantage of this due to cost concerns or to gain a sense of independence and freedom.
Bedics, who grew up in South Bethlehem, said students have a lot of fear of crime due to the urban environment.
“I’m very familiar with the neighborhood and working in the neighborhood,” Bedics said. “Fear of crime can sometimes be worse than actual crime itself.”
Arielle Willett, ’15, said she decided not to live off campus her senior year because her current roommate was very against it due to safety concerns. Instead, they decided to live in Campus Square.
However, Willett said she has come to appreciate living on-campus.
“Location-wise, it’s not that much safer because it’s right next to (off-campus streets),” Willett said. “But I think there is just a different air of security that you get when you live on campus.”
According to the Residential Services website, every on-campus dorm has locked doors 24 hours a day and can only be entered with the use of a swipe card.
Bedics said that the security cameras allow LUPD to patrol on-campus areas, as well as areas surrounding the university, such as Fourth Street, the Bethlehem Greenway and New Street.
In addition to their own cameras, Bedics said the LUPD has access to the Bethlehem Police Department’s security cameras. These cover farther, yet still student-populated, areas, like Broadway and Wyandotte Streets.
“It kind of helps us make sure that we’re in the neighborhoods,” Bedics said. “It is another set of eyes.”
Bedics also said the university would be installing at least 10 more security cameras on streets like Carlton and Montclair, which was prompted by an off-campus break-in that occurred this past summer.
According to a Lehigh Police Department safety report, a female Lehigh student was assaulted in her home on Carlton Street in July by a Bethlehem teen. It was later revealed that the suspect attempted to suffocate and rape the student before being apprehended by the Bethlehem police as he tried to leave the home.
Lehigh Valley Live reported that the teen was able to enter the house through an open window on the first floor.
Bedics said that since the incident, LUPD have stepped up measures to identify security flaws.
According to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, as of October 2014, there have been 110 burglaries with unlawful entries and 97 forcible entry burglaries in Bethlehem.
Bedics said many students have a carefree attitude when it comes to their safety off campus.
One morning, when Bedics was out on bicycle patrol off-campus, he spotted a house with an open window on the first floor.
“I could have easily crawled into (the window) and went into the house,” Bedics said.
He decided to knock on the door and inform the residents of the danger leaving the window open posed to their safety. After awakening the student who was inside, Bedics suggested closing the window and made reference to the incident on Carlton Street.
Bedics said the student claimed to know nothing about the incident.
“(The student) just went back inside, went to bed and didn’t close the window,” Bedics said.
Chris Campbell, ’15, who has lived off campus for the past two years, said it baffled him that some students do not lock their doors and windows.
However, he said that early last fall, his house on East Fifth Street that was locked was burglarized. After Campbell and a group of friends left the house on a Friday night, an intruder stole their XBOX and some of its accessories that were in the living room.
“After examining our house, the police officers found out that (the intruder) kicked the back door open,” Campbell said. “He broke in that way.”
Campbell said even his landlord was surprised that someone was able to break into the house by kicking down the locked door.
Kerry Austin, ’15, currently lives in an off-campus house on Montclair Street. It is located only a block away from where the break-in occurred on Carlton Street.
Austin said the incident has made both her and her roommates more aware about locking their doors and taking necessary safety precautions.
However, Austin became a victim of assault one night this semester after leaving MacGrady’s Bar on East Third Street. She is one of the 51 cases of assault using “hands, fist, feet” that have occurred in Bethlehem this year, according to the Pennsylvania UCRS.
Austin said she and three of her roommates had made their way to West Fourth Street near Tally Ho Tavern. As they approached the building, they notice several police cars in front and many people scattering through the street.
Austin said the assault happened when a man and woman passed her on the street.
“I didn’t say anything to this woman, and she didn’t say anything to me,” Austin said. “But out of nowhere, she just punched me in the face.”
Austin said the woman and man immediately sprinted away. The man turned around to apologize, but still kept running.
No matter the situation, the Bethlehem Police Department keeps track of these crimes using both logs and a crime mapping system. Students are able to go online and view a map of the city that shows all crimes that have occurred that week.
Bedics said the LUPD have started using the “EmergenSee” app to further ensure safety.
According to the Lehigh Police Department website, the app allows users to immediately contact the LUPD, take video and audio that can be streamed to dispatchers and alert the police of their exact location.
“The most important thing to safety is a partnership — between us and the students,” Bedics said. “If you see something suspicious or unusual, you should be reporting it and not assuming that somebody else will.”