Lindsey Arceci

Opinions Editor



In a city of 23,354 people, nestled in a valley that stretches 37 square miles under the beautiful shadow of the famous Mount Monadnock, Keene, New Hampshire is a pretty little New England city. It’s main streets are historically structured, lined with brick buildings that house small businesses and local goods, as a strong community feel blends with the 5,738 college students living among them.

Violent crime spikes

Though the two groups have commonly blended well together, violent crime still happens. At the beginning of 2013, the Keene State College campus fell victim to several stabbings and robberies. Some involved college students and some involved Keene residents. Several assaults followed that took place both on campus and off campus. Shortly following these assaults were several small bombings made from plastic bottles that when shook up the debris would cause chemical burns. Again this occurred both on and off campus.
But the question of who is committing the crimes usually results in an uncertain answer if generalized, but it is important to keep asking this because this information could help better prepare the Keene community with ways to be safe. Many outsiders may be surprised that Keene would even have a significant number of violent crime acts, but as one victim said, “In small towns, there’s still twisted stuff that goes on, and just because it’s hidden behind a veil of ‘pretty’ doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

The College Liaison Officer Katie Corbett of the Keene Police Department said she recognizes that there are trends within recent violent crimes. One example she mentioned was that all the robberies are pretty consistent, and that there’s a trend that they’re all at the convenience store.

“That was a trend because it was the same people who did it. Other than that, I think everything else has been somewhat random I would say. Obviously when it’s the same person they’re going to do the same thing because that’s what they know,” Corbett said.
KSC junior Patrick Johnson agrees that he has seen an increase in the rise of violent crimes, not just because he was stabbed early in 2012. I have personally seen the rise in crime just within the last year. “Before last year there was no worries in my mind about walking home by myself and then for some reason it seems to have flourished out of nowhere,” Johnson said.

She said that violent crime could be under-reported in Keene, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics [BJS], she may be right in national terms as well. The BJS stated in its 2012 reports that more than half of the number of violent crimes committed last year went unreported. The number of violent crimes that were reported nationally last year… 3.4 million. According to Corbett, in Keene for 2012, there were 261 reported violent crimes. That means a possible 130 violent crimes could have occurred without being reported. But with only 11 of the reported crimes being robberies, who are committing the other 250 violent crimes?

Two types of attackers: townsfolk and students

Two Keene State College sophomores, Elissa Fredeen and Nico Saraceni, experienced a twisted night a little over a year ago when they ran into a complete stranger right on the border of campus. As the two were walking from Randall diagonally across Blake Street to Winchester, they walked by a man at the stop sign who seemed to be of talking to himself.

Fredeen said she felt a little sketched out at first, but thought she would just try to ignore him as they approached. As they were walking, Fredeen said the two were having a funny conversation about an old Youtube video they had just remembered randomly and were laughing.

“We walk by this guy and he is right up on us, following us. He was inches away. Then he just said, ‘what are you laughing about?’ We ignored him and then he said, ‘hey I asked you a question! What are you laughing about?’” Fredeen said.

When Saraceni admitted they were laughing about a song, the man asked him again as he put his arm on Saraceni’s shoulder and attempted to turn him around. Saraceni said the man quickly asked, ‘Do you want to fight?’ Saraceni said he tried to talk to the man but he punched Saraceni mid-sentence and it completely threw him off.

“He just started getting into a fight with Nico and calling him names, pushing him around, and like wailing on him. Nico’s shirtless in the street, I’m screaming for help,” Fredeen continued. “At one point I’m on this guy’s back, and I’m like, ‘cut it out! what are you doing?’ He didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I was on this guy’s back and he wasn’t even paying attention to me.”

Having Fredeen there to jump into action helped Saraceni’s unforeseen frozen nature.
“I feel like I spent too much of the time during this thinking about what was happening. My focus was on the ridiculous details,” Saraceni said. “I didn’t know what to do, I had never been in such a real fight before, so I just grabbed his neck.”

The man was still able to hit Saraceni, but he tried to move the man with his hands still on his neck, and finally was able to have enough strength to throw him towards the street. “I just threw him to the curb. It’s not like he just laid there, but he hit the ground pretty hard. Elissa said his head bounced off the curb.”

With a break in the attack, the two saw a Campus Safety cruiser driving by heading towards campus. Fredeen starting running after the car, and a few moments later, Saraceni begun riding his longboard after the cruiser as well and was eventually able to catch up with the officer ahead of Elissa who was on foot. They both had followed the car down Appian Way, calling out to it, and were finally able to catch the officer’s attention by the Owl’s Nest buildings.

Although they made contact with Campus Safety and filed a police report, the officials never found their attacker. Fredeen said that if this situation were to happen again that she would try to find a way to snap the attacker’s photograph so she had something to show the police. It may be difficult to remember an attacker’s appearance because as Fredeen and Saraceni said, the adrenaline rush is a surprise.

“I think that’s probably why I couldn’t do anything was because I had adrenaline pumping through me. After the guy left, my knees were just shaking,” Fredeen said.
Saraceni admitted knowing what to do in a situation like this is hard because every scenario is different.

“If this happened again I don’t know if I would be crippled with fear or be like, ‘I got this,” Saraceni said. “You’re never going to know until you’re in that scenario. Don’t let it consume you, but just be prepared.”

Simply being aware of everything around you can go a long way. Corbett suggested that everyone should walk on the main streets and keep a cell phone handy. Corbett also said to take advantage of the campus shuttle, but if you’re just walking about town, she said to remember to walk in the well-lit areas, and to keep a cell phone on.
If someone does approach you or tries talking to you like in Saraceni and Fredeen’s case, Corbett said to just keep walking like you don’t hear them. But if something happens or you think you are being followed, she advises to just call 9-1-1.

One KSC student knows what it’s like to be followed, and at a close distance. Senior Jess Collin said she was walking home one night, was not intoxicated, and saw a group of college-age guys walking towards her on Main Street. Collin said the men didn’t need to get too close before they started bothering her and she could tell they were very intoxicated.

“I was already in a bad mood so I chose to ignore them altogether, but I still had to walk past them,” Collin said. “So as I walked by, they kind of turned around and started walking with me, and continued badgering me.”

Collin said that at one point one of the men grabbed some of her hair and so she flicked his hand away. “He got really defensive and sort of punched me in the stomach, and it completely knocked the wind out of me,” Collin explained. “I kind of doubled over, I was trying to catch my breath, and then basically, in a circle they started pushing me around. I tried to get away, and then one of them grabbed me and didn’t necessarily pick me up but heaved me into the road, and there was obviously on-coming traffic.”

She dodged a car thankfully that swerved around her, following this scare, Collin said the boys continued on there way and she went home to discuss the attack with her roommates. “I thought about what if I had told Campus Safety or the police, but part of me just wanted to forget about it, just let it go. I’ve never seen them since, and I honestly don’t think I could describe them because they were just so average-looking,” Collin said.

You can’t walk alone in Keene

Since the attack, Collin said her roommates and she never walk alone. They are always in a group when they’re walking around town together or at night. She admits that walking home alone that night was not the best idea. “It was stupid for me to do that at the time, but I guess I was kind of naive at the time, ‘it’s Keene,’ you know, ‘everything’s fine!’” Collin said.

As Collin said, Keene is known for appearing like an innocent small city, whose beautiful scenery gives off the assumption of a safe community. Even those who travel to visit friends in Keene notice it’s ‘pretty disguise.’ Samantha O’Neill is a friend of a few KSC students who traveled to Keene from Milford to finally see the area. “As I was driving in I remember how pretty it was and compared it to the drive into Nashua where I’m from, which is gross,” O’Neill said. “It [Keene] just looks so quaint, I think it’s cute. I wouldn’t expect that crime would be a thing in a place like this, it’s so pretty.”

One victim who stated earlier that just because Keene is hidden behind a ‘veil of pretty’ that it doesn’t mean someone could run into a potentially violent person on the street. “People think that nothing really can happen at night in Keene,” former KSC student Jake Henderson said. “It [Keene] is so safe compared to a lot of areas but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to meet people who are kind of just malicious.” He suggests educating the community on a local level about how these situations really take place would be beneficial. He experienced an attack in the fall of 2012, on his front lawn.

“I’m walking down my street and my bike cuts, so I bend down to pick it up and before I could even stand up I feel myself get pressed to the ground. I didn’t even have time to look at the people or see if it was one person or a few,” Henderson said. After this initial moment, Henderson said he felt a kick to the stomach. “It was a very strange situation, very quick. But I’m pretty sure it was the second kick that knocked me out, or what I am assuming was knocked out because I remember waking up and not having a clue where I was.”

He said he woke up to a police officer helping him to sit and get into an ambulance. Henderson that since the attack he has become much more aware of his surroundings when he is walking around at night.

Fredeen and Saraceni echoed this change of awareness. “When I’m out walking I just try and pay attention to everything around me. I just try to keep an eye on everything around me,” Fredeen said.

“Do not go anywhere alone. If I was by myself I don’t know how that would have ended up,” Saraceni said. “Elissa did help, significantly, but regardless of how much she did, if I was by myself things would not have ended well. I think what people don’t understand about violent crime is that it can happen at any time.”

Community involved in prevention

But it’s not just the young people who acknowledge the violent crime issue, Professor of Criminology at KSC, Peter Stevenson, said that New Hampshire is one of safest states in the country statistically. “People overestimate how safe Keene is, especially out-of-state parents who think Keene looks like a nice safe town, the crime you had at home, we have it here too,” Stevenson added.

He said he considers violent crime to be an ‘opportunistic crime.’ “Walking home wasted is easy pickings for criminals. Most criminals are looking to rob someone, see a target, and drinking and taking drugs will influence [the outcome]. The victim isn’t to blame but their actions play a big part in what happens,” Stevenson said.

Although there are things that individuals can do to help protect themselves at night, Stevenson addressed that the Keene Police Department works hard to help with this issue. But the solution may not be more cops. “What works in urban areas may not work in suburban areas. KPD has a pretty good awareness of trouble areas but they can’t be everywhere every second. You need to be aware.”

The Associate Director of Campus Safety for KSC, Ethan Kipnes said that his department is trying to warn students about violent crime attacks by emailing students each time an attack occurs. “Sometimes students say, ‘you keep sending these things [Campus Safety crime alerts] and it scares everybody.’ So there’s this difference because some people want to know everything that’s going on and other people are saying you got to stop notifying people it scares them,” Kipnes said. “Certainly we have to comply with what the Federal law tells us to do but then the greater strain is what is best for the community.”

He continued to say, that with Campus Safety’s help, he recently has spoken with KSC staff members and groups to discuss having educational talks with the KSC community regarding emergency planning, safety and preventative planning. He said that if you look at past school shootings and attacks, many times the person responsible showed signs of different behaviors that were not paid attention to and therefore there was no potential for intervention.

But if there was a program to help reach out to students and establish support systems early on, Kipnes said this might help the violence problem. “That way Campus Safety can take in all this information from students and faculty and offer help and support to those who may be going through a tough time, and pay attention to those who may pose a threat,” Kipnes said.

Whether it’s more students or more of the Keene residents committing these violent crimes, the solution stays the same. The law enforcers like Corbett said to not hesitate in these types of situations. “When you see something suspicious, call things in,” Corbett said. “I think if people were more aware, and more suspicious of people that would help.”

Being suspicious and possibly carrying a non lethal weapon as Johnson mentioned could help if someone were to cause potential harm. “If I had a tazer or something along those lines that would not have caused him harm I would have gladly used it,” Johnson sais. Although his vexation with his attackers conflicts with what he feels about using violence against a violent person. “There is nothing solved when you use violence against someone using violence against you.”

For a GoogleMap with all the violent crimes reported to KPD from January 1, 2013 to April 4, 2013, visit Information compiled by Officer Katie Corbett.

Lindsey Arceci can be contacted at

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