By Tristin Burris and Felix Ortiz (Whetstone staff)
Nearly half of the 272 sex offenders who live in Dover can be found within a one mile radius of Wesley’s campus.
Of the 272, 77 live within a mile of the campus, and 39 more work within this perimeter.
“Wow, that is a really scary number for just within a mile,” said Brooke Gannon, a sophomore nursing student. “It’s a scary thought, especially since some of our classes end at night.”
Gannon and other nursing students will have more to think about when they walk to the newly-acquired Frear building, where nursing classes will be.
Nearby New Street has seven homes with registered sex offenders living within a quarter- mile of Wesley, making it the highest profile street near campus. Three registered sex offenders live together in one of those apartments.
That’s only three of the 12 who live within a quarter-mile of the campus; two more work within that area.
“We have never had any reported concerns with any registered sex offenders living in the area,” said Walt Beaupre, director of safety and security.
Still, Wesley academic dean Patricia Dwyer said the school is looking into having shuttle service for students to the Frear building when it opens.
Many other students who walk or go running around campus said they were concerned about the high number of offenders close by.
“We run around the town and, knowing this, we’re going to be more aware of where we run and what time we run,” said Kelly Edmunds, a sophomore soccer player.
Students need to keep this information in perspective, said Dr. Cynthia Newton, assistant professor of political science.
She said the high numbers do not concern her, but it is important for students to remain mindful of them.
“While there are certainly individuals that have committed horrific crimes, blanket judgments and statements are not productive,” she said. “Sex offenders are human beings with Constitutional Rights and there are a wide variety of offenses that may result in someone being on the registry.”
In contrast to Wesley, Delaware State University only has 14 registered sex offenders (seven living and seven working) within a mile of its campus. It has none within a quarter mile.
Perhaps the reason for such unbalanced data is the location.
“As you know, the area surrounding Wesley is a built up, highly populated community, where the area around Delaware State University is spread out,” said Beaupre.
The number of offenders near campus still surprised many students.
“It’s annoying because how else is anyone supposed to know if the school’s surrounded by sex offenders if no one tells you?” said junior Sam Lyon.
Sophomore Chantz McKeller agreed.
“It doesn’t bother me, but it makes me think about who’s walking on or near campus,” he said. “I believe the school should do more to notify the females on campus about it.”
In 2010, the Whetstone reported that 40 registered sex offenders lived within a half-mile of campus; today, it’s 50, a 25 percent increase.
Most of the registered offenders within the quarter-mile radius have been charged with an offense against a child. Of these 12 convictions, a third was classified as repeat offenders.
Also within this quarter mile radius are two schools for children: The Little School Inc., which has four offenders within 1,000 feet, and Campus Community School, which has one offender living within 1,000 feet.
Other registered sex offenders near campus who have been charged include two rape cases, one sexual battery case, and seven offenses classified as “other.”
Sophomore Melanie Fischer said knowing this will make her more aware of her surroundings.
“I never even knew that there were sex offenders near us,” she said. “It makes me feel uncomfortable. Now I’m going to start walking in groups.”
A list of registered sex offenders is available from http://familywatchdog.us, or www.state.de.us/dsp/sexoff/. Students can also visit the Wesley College’s “Annual Security and Fire Report” (http://www.wesley.edu/fileadmin/editors_images/Student_Life_files/Security/Annual_Security_Report_2012.pdf) for information about school policies.
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Walk with your identification on you
- Let someone else know when you are leaving, where you are headed, and approximately what time you will return
- Contact law enforcement authorities immediately if there is any suspicious or unlawful activity
- Do not talk on the phone or text while walking in a car lot or on the street
- Do not walk alone after dark, or after consuming alcohol
- Never enter a strange home
- Never get into any vehicle
- Always wear reflective clothing at night
- Never approach any house that is not well lit
- Remember anything uncomfortable that someone says or does to you and tell proper authorities
- Scream, run and fight if anyone tries to grab you or make you to go with them
- Don’t walk in areas that you are unfamiliar with
- Stay on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, always walk facing traffic
- If a situation feels wrong, remove yourself from it
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