Spring Splash crime: Who’s at fault?
April 20, 2017
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When it comes to Spring Splash, University of Whitewater-Wisconsin students are the largest contributors of crime.
A Royal Purple investigation of the City of Whitewater Police Department’s reports, accessed from a Freedom of Information request, from the days of Spring Splash from 2013 through 2016 has found that UW-Whitewater students comprise at least 40 percent of the reported incidents.
In 2015, 40.9 percent of the cases could directly be attributed to UW-Whitewater students; in 2016, the number dropped slightly to 40.2 percent. There wasn’t a lot of activity in 2013 and 2014 that could reasonably be assumed as a result of Spring Splash.
Non-UW-Whitewater students or out-of-town visitors can only be directly identified in less than 1 out of every 5 of the incidents. In 2015, there were only five events that could be directly correlated to non-students, equaling 11.4 percent of the day’s cases. In 2016, that number rose to 19.4 percent.
The caveat in these reports is that almost as many cases that can be identified to be the direct result of UW-W students include language that makes it difficult or close to impossible to identify the student status, or lack thereof, of the person.
For example, many of these reports consist of vague language such as “loud music/language,” “intox individuals attempting to enter bldg” and “subjects on roof near alley and one way street.”
Because of the lack of information in the police reports, it’s difficult to definitively say that out-of-town visitors were responsible for the majority of the disturbances during the 2015 and 2016 events; however, it’s a more plausible argument that UW-W students contribute more to crime than their non-student counterparts.
These numbers directly conflict with the City of Whitewater’s stance that much of the problems from last year’s event were due to the large surplus of outsiders.
“The City of Whitewater recognizes most of the negative behavior that occurred last year was not from Whitewater students,” the Feb. 3 news release states. “The City does not want to limit celebrative opportunities for any group or individual but rather encourages safe and controlled gatherings.”
City Manager Cameron Clapper said his own experiences with Spring Splash have been rooted in the positive response he’s seen from students in the aftermath of the event.
“In part, it’s an assumption based on experience,” Clapper said. “[The student’s responses] are indicators to me, as well as discussions I’ve had with student government and other members of the student community, that much like I would expect from the people I see on campus every day, it’s not our own people who are going crazy and throwing things at police officers and putting people in danger.
An increase in outsiders
While it’s not likely that non-UW-W Spring Splash patrons were the main cause of the increased incidents, they did show up in higher numbers in 2016 than the year prior.
To the tune of 74 percent more students, that is.
Stephanie Goettl, Whitewater Common Council member from District 5, said that when more people are located in a centralized space, it’s more likely to see higher levels of misconduct.
“I certainly am not here to say that every single bad thing that happened that day was [from] someone who wasn’t from Whitewater,” Goettl said. “But I do certainly think that when you double or triple the number of people, it’s always to contribute to an increase in chaos. It doesn’t really matter where they were from. It does matter that there were a lot more people here and it was a lot more difficult to control as a result.”
Goettl said that part of the reason why the event drew in as many people as it did was partially due to an increase in social media marketing. Solely on Facebook, the official event had around 2,600 people marked as attending, with another 1,200 interested in the event.
The large social media presence became part of the City’s reasoning for asking the sponsorship of the official event to be pulled, Clapper said. It’s meant as an experiment to see if the parties will be more manageable, or if the official Spring Splash event is beneficial to crowd control.
Goettl says the decision is less about limiting students’ freedom and “taking away fun” – it’s more about maintaining a safe atmosphere for all who participate.
“I think it’s easier to make a bad decision when there are more people here,” Goettl said. “It’s easier even for our students to make a bad decision.”