Nearly 4,000 individuals have been barred from GW property by the University Police Department to date.
A bar notice – given by UPD to persons permanently forbidden from setting foot on campus – is a written notice signed by an offender acknowledging he or she will be charged with unlawful entry and arrested if found on GW property again. UPD keeps biographical information on those who are barred for future identification.
With an official bar notice, “the property owner is officially telling someone, ‘You are not welcome on our property,'” said Mark Balazik, captain of the University Police Department’s Investigations and Special Operations Unit.
As of Sept. 1, there are a total of 3,816 individuals barred from GW property.
Balazik said it is possible for people who have been barred from campus to return and go unnoticed, but UPD maintains the right to arrest an individual who comes to its attention and is identified as someone who is barred.
“It’s not like the bar notice puts up a force field around campus,” Balazik said. “But when we catch people suspected of crimes, it eases our burden of proof next time we encounter them.”
Certified Protection Professional Howard Levinson says barring individuals from property is a common practice among businesses and casinos to combat shoplifting. He added that tackling crime on urban college campuses, as opposed to rural areas, poses unique challenges due to increased foot traffic among a more diverse group of people.
On urban campuses, Levinson said, “it is harder to find crime, harder to prevent crime and harder to identify crime.”
He added, however, that a barring policy could serve as a deterrent and keep previous offenders from committing further crimes at GW.
This year alone, 244 people unaffiliated with GW have been barred from campus for offenses ranging from underage drinking, urination on University property, intercourse in a University study lounge, nude swimming in a pool on campus, assault and attempted theft.
In 2009, UPD barred 404 people from campus, and 362 individuals were barred in 2008. Data on those charged with unlawful entry upon returning to campus is not tracked.
Offenders sign off that no circumstances would ever permit their presence on campus again, unless the chief of University Police rescinds the bar, which would only happen if the offender provided a valid reason.
If barred from campus, an individual can walk down the streets of campus because sidewalks are public property, but cannot enter any GW property. Bar notices include a map of campus depicting property boundaries.
Violation of a bar notice by simply re-entering GW property is punishable by arrest, but UPD officials are not strictly obligated to make arrests and can use discretion when handling such situations.
“Although officers are authorized to make such arrests and often do so, there is no obligation to arrest such offenders, and officers are expected to exercise good judgment and take into account all of the pertinent circumstances of a particular situation before deciding to make a custodial arrest,” Balazik said.
For example, a disorderly woman in the University Mall on I Street was found attacking individuals with her umbrella Aug. 28. Upon investigation, UPD discovered she had previously been barred from campus and she was arrested for unlawful entry.
Balazik said officers might choose not to arrest a homeless person who is simply using a GW restroom.
Boston University also sits on an urban campus and the school’s police officers issue trespassing notices after investigation of suspicious behavior and disturbances on private BU property.
“While Boston University is an open, urban campus, it is private property,” Executive Director of Media Relations Colin Riley said. “If a trespass warning is issued, the individual is legally on notice that they may be arrested if they come on the university’s property in the future. Each case is treated individually.”
Riley said he estimates BU Police issue about a dozen trespass notices yearly – one-twentieth of the number of bar notices UPD has already issued this year alone.
Jeremy Manier, a spokesman for the University of Chicago, said its campus police department uses barring individuals as a “tool,” but one that is not routinely used. Manier said campus police does not track the number of people barred from campus each year and the decision to bar an individual comes on a “case-by-case” basis.
Overall, Levinson said the best way to fight campus crime is to be vigilant.
“Be aware of what’s happening. There is no magic system by far,” Levinson said.