By Lauren Khine, Summer Times Staff Writer
Despite last week’s worst reported incidents being dorm lock-outs, Exeter Summer has recently suffered several egregious incidents of racism and theft. According to Paul Gravel, the head of Campus Safety, four racially charged incidents were officially recorded on Tuesday, all occurring in the past two weeks.
Five Exeter Summer students, both Access and Upper School students, were affected. Of the four incidents, three are believed to possibly involve the same vehicle. Mr. Gravel detailed the suspected aggressor, as a youngish white driver at the wheel of a black pickup truck. Addressing measures being taken, Mr. Gravel said Exeter was working with the Exeter police department. On Tuesday, Campus Safety met with the Detective Sergeant and one of the detectives of the police department and interviewed the students affected.
“Based on information [from the investigations], and because we don’t have a plate number, we have narrowed down a time of day when the man came through campus, near Main Street,” Mr. Gravel said. “Exeter Police Department will beef up patrols at that time in the area.” Mr. Gravel also explained a “role call item”, which is where the police department will write up a short blurb about the offending vehicle and person, and patrol officers will keep a look-out for them.
The most aggressive incident, as Mr. Gravel outlined, occurred near Main Street. An Exeter Summer student was playing basketball, and a racial slur was directed toward him. The aforementioned black pick-up truck drove by multiple times, harassing the student. In other situations, students reported drivers making barking noises at them, although no profanity nor discriminatory language was used.
“In the state of New Hampshire, we don’t have a hate crime statute,” Mr. Gravel said. “The determination of whether or not a crime is considered a hate crime is actually made by the Attorney General’s office or any attorney that handles the case.” Further elaborating, Mr. Gravel speculated that any person charged in relation to Exeter students would be charged for disorderly conduct, for yelling out a car window. At the prosecution level, Mr. Gravel said, the prosecutor can determine if incidents indicate a hate crime pattern.
“If somebody paints a swastika outside of somebody’s house, it will be treated as criminal mischief,” Mr. Gravel explained. “It’s not [considered] a hate crime. It’s criminal mischief.” Later, the prosecutor can deem the action as a hate crime, which then contributes to an enhanced penalty.
Mr. Gravel said that both he and the rest of the safety officers at Exeter are aware of the racially charged incidents. “[The man in the black pick-up truck] probably comes through town the same time every day,” he said. “We’re studying a pattern, so eventually we should be able to identify that vehicle and person.” According to Mr. Gravel, the police department has been very cooperative and offered to send two detectives to take reports from students.
Misdemeanors within the Exeter Summer community have also been reported recently. Over a two-week window, there were eight reported money thefts from Abbott hall. Amounts stolen ranged from $4 to $200. Currently, there are no suspects. Another report entails a misunderstanding, with a student believing their wallet was stolen. Later, it was realized one of the student’s friends had borrowed the wallet, and subsequently returned it.
Medical calls have been minor, with only a bloody nose and cut foot being reported. If any information about the aforementioned incidents is known, or if there are any further Exeter safety situations, Campus Safety recommends calling 603.777.4444.