Kent aggravated assaults double

Timothy Magaw

The number of aggravated assaults in Kent has more than doubled in the last year, but the number of simple assaults dropped, according to a recent report from the Kent Police Department.

A total of 59 aggravated assaults occurred in Kent in 2007, a 103 percent increase from the 29 in 2006. The number of simple assaults slightly decreased from 229 to 216.

These aggravated assaults are those that generally require hospital treatment due to disabling injuries that could be considered life threatening, Kent Police Chief James Peach said.

Peach was hesitant to say how many of these serious assaults were student-related, but he said young people between the ages of 18 and 25 are usually involved. He said because of the university’s prominence in the community, young people from the Northeast Ohio area are attracted to the area for partying.

“It’s not very common for people to be committing these types of assaults in their 40s or 50s,” Peach said, adding that the number of aggravated assaults is high for a community the size of Kent because that’s more than one every week.

Peach said there isn’t one reason that can be pointed to for the increase in serious assaults, but the common factor is where they occur. Although there is no specific problem area in the city, these serious assaults generally occur on public streets or sidewalks near areas associated with partying and drinking. These assaults are also generally unprovoked.

Peach said many of these assaults occur at off-campus parties where hosts can’t keep control of their guests.

“The people who have these parties should be cognizant these parties can get out of hand,” he said, adding that party hosts can be held accountable for illegal activities that occur.

Jonathan Bey, senator for community affairs of the Undergraduate Student Senate, said the Community Task Force will be out once the weather breaks advising students about party safety. He said the task force never addressed assaults, but he said an important message they like to get out is to keep control of unwanted guests who cause problems, such as fighting.

“If there are people you don’t know, it’s acceptable to call the police yourself and they’ll assist you in removing them,” Bey said about dealing with unwanted guests.

Peach said there are problems with investigations into these assaults because witnesses who observe the crime may run because they’re underage and have been drinking. But he said that when observers don’t report or prevent these assaults, they are complicit in the crime and could be charged.

A way to deal with this increase in serious assaults, Peach said, is to have more police presence in these areas, but that’s difficult because of the demands on the department. He said patrolling party areas is just one of the jobs of the department, especially with other serious crimes occurring.

“It’s just one spoke of a big wheel, and we have to spend time on each of the spokes we’re responsible for,” Peach said.

He said people need to take more responsibility in preventing assault.

“It’s an issue,” he said. “You need more eyes and more ears to take a more proactive role.”

Kent did see a 20 percent decrease in traffic injury accidents with a total of 101 and a 20 percent decrease in accidents related to driving under the influence with a total of 28.

Safety Director William Lillich said an analysis is done every year to analyze the top 10 percent accident locations and identify issues that may have contributed. In some cases, changes can be made to improve safety. He said police also rely on the data and go to the problematic locations and increase presence and take enforcement action.

Lillich said improvements, for example, have been made along state Route 261, especially at the intersection with Mogadore Road. There was an issue with accidents involving a left turn in front of oncoming traffic. In response to the accidents, the timing was changed on the light so when it turns green, it’s the only green that shows and holds the opposite traffic.

Contact public affairs reporter Timothy Magaw at [email protected].