FEATURE: Protecting The Parking Lot

Student Resource Officers respond to incidents in the parking lot
Individual getting into their car in the Free State parking lot.
Individual getting into their car in the Free State parking lot.
Keat Hockenbury

For many students, earning a license means independence. However, with this newfound freedom come new responsibilities and liabilities, especially in the school parking lot.

According to the National Library of Medicine, drivers who have been licensed for less than six months are eight times more likely to get into a crash than adults. Even after six months of maintaining a license, young drivers are two to three times more likely to cause accidents. The abundance of new drivers in the student parking lot highlights the essential role of School Resource Officers Kacey Wiltz and Bailey Salsbury, who work to ensure the safety of students.

The SROs respond to accidents and incidents in the parking lot at least once a week. Wiltz credits this to inexperienced drivers who may feel intimidated by being held liable for any damages. However, Wiltz emphasizes that drivers do not have to stress over causing incidents and that they will not face any punishments from the school as long as incidents are reported; preparing students for what collaborating with city police officers will be like.

“I’d rather be able to educate them here than for them to get in trouble somewhere else,” Wiltz said.

A personal item is passed out of a students car. (Keat Hockenbury)

Because the parking lot is considered private property, the SROs are responsible for assisting with more common incidents, like car accidents. Recently, sophomore Mars Pierson was a victim of a hit-and-run accident that left a three-inch dent in the passenger side of their car. Pierson then went to the SRO’s office and was able to use the security camera footage to discover the license plate and insurance of the driver.

“They were able to get me the insurance information even though the guy left,” Pierson said. “They were really helpful.”

In addition to damages, other incidents have posed a hazard to students. Since Apple’s release of the AirTag in 2021, numerous individuals have found the devices in their vehicle that could be tracking their location on the phone of the placer. Because of these incidents, Apple released an update that would alert people when an AirTag is moving with them.

When sophomore Claire Heinritz left school, she received a notification alerting her that an AirTag had been tracking her car. For two weeks, her every move was tracked by an AirTag that was eventually found hidden under leaves in the hood of her car. Heinritz is a seemingly random victim, and who placed the AirTag remains unsolved; however, the SROs were given the AirTag to find its owner.

“It was really helpful to have SROs,” Heinritz said. “It’s a lot less intimidating to go to a trusted adult about it than to go to a police station.”

Wiltz and Salsbury are available in student services to offer the necessary service to maintain the school’s functionality and safety both in and out of the parking lot. They are able to facilitate the exchange of information between students involved in incidents on school grounds, educate students on how to handle accidents and monitor the parking lot when necessary.

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About the Contributors
Maria Mosconi
Maria Mosconi, News Planning Team
Maria Mosconi is a sophomore reporter for Free State Journalism and it is her second year on staff. Otherwise, she spends her time doing ballet, hanging with friends, and learning to parallel park.
Keat Hockenbury
Keat Hockenbury, Photographer
Keat Hockenbury is a senior at Free State and is a photographer on staff. He is a member of the XC, track, and swim team and is also a part of choir and band. Outside of school he enjoys cooking and late night drives with friends.
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