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Hays police offer safety tips for incoming FHSU students





Don Scheibler and Brian Dawson can offer suggestions all day long concerning the various ways incoming Fort Hays State University students can take steps to remain safe.

But they also realize the students must assume some of the responsibility themselves and take precautions.

"Be responsible for yourself," said Hays Police Chief Scheibler.

Assistant Police Chief Dawson offers another reminder: Don't drink so much you're no longer able to take advantage of Scheibler's advice.

Both Dawson and Scheibler recognize college is a unique time, when many students going away for school actually are on their own for the first time.

There's also something of a culture shock for incoming students from small towns where cars and homes were never locked, and they now must be.

"They should have fun," Dawson said of students. "College should be a learning experience. But they should take care of themselves.

"People feel safe in our community. But you still have to be cautious."

"Overall, we live in a safe community," Scheibler agreed. "But you always have to be aware of your surroundings and don't put yourself in a bad situation."

Hays has its share of crime, but some of the more serious cases are inextricably linked to consumption -- in many instances -- the overconsumption of alcohol.

"It comes back to not being a victim," Scheibler said.

He said the overwhelming number of sexual assaults in Hays are incidental to alcohol consumption.

"It's not a dangerous community, but it can be a dangerous place," Scheibler said.

Taking steps to be safe can include something as simple as using the time-honored buddy system when going out for a night.

"If you go somewhere, go with a buddy," Scheibler said. "When they're leaving, you leave."

Carrying a phone is always a good idea, Dawson said, so long as it doesn't make a person unaware of their surroundings.

"Make sure you lock your doors, lock your car," he said.

And there's the Safe Ride program, which operates from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Now, there's also a taxi service for people who don't want to wait for the free Safe Ride bus.

Either one likely is a preferred alternative to being arrested for driving under the influence.

"The reality of it is, in this town, there's a good chance you're going to be arrested," Scheibler said of people who decide to drink and drive.

Last year, he said, there were 410 DUI arrests in Ellis County.

"Drug arrests are up," he said. "DUI arrests are up."

Even conducting social gatherings carries a bit of responsibility.

"If anybody does have a social gathering, be respectful of your neighbors," Dawson said.

"Clean up after yourself," Scheibler said.

But there's now an option allowing the opportunity to register a party, a relatively simple single-page form available from the police department.

"We just started it at the end of last year," he said.

If there's a noise complaint about a registered party, there's a 15-minute grace period to break up the party after being notified.

That could save a $500 fine.