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Athens City police officer Nathan Braglin conducts a traffic stop near Ohio University, Feb. 24, 2024

Police chief, students address concerns for Athens safety

Ohio University student Kara Nemet, a junior studying computer science, avoids staying out past 2 a.m. when the bars start to close. She said she followed the advice of an Athens Police Department lieutenant – who visited her forensics class – to stay in groups.

“He said that a lot of the times, (sexual assault) happens when people are coming back after the bars close,” Nemet said. “My goal is to not be out that way and to always have somebody to walk with.”

OU had a little under 30,000 students enrolled during the 2023 Fall Semester, and the City of Athens has – as of 2022 – about 20,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With roughly 50,000 people in the city at times, safety and criminal activity are a concern. 

Nemet lives above the Court Street Subway with her girlfriend and dog. 

“We did not take into consideration that if you live on Court Street you probably like to go out on Court Street,” Nemet said. “A lot of our neighbors are really loud … that's definitely the worst part.”

On Friday night, Nemet and her girlfriend took their dog out around 11:30 p.m., Nemet said.  While walking through the North End Kitchen and Bar, 77 N. Court St., parking lot, they ran into two people who were allegedly holding alcoholic drinks. 

The couple turned the people away when they asked to pet their dog, Nemet said. In response, the people started yelling profanities. 

“We’ve had multiple experiences like that, but it’s, on average, once every three weeks,” Nemet said. 

However, Athens Police Chief Nick Magruder thinks the city is a safe place to be. 

“We have crime that occurs in the city, but it's nothing compared to comparable cities,” he said.  

Magruder said the crime police see most often is theft, such as retail, credit card or between roommates. 

According to the most recent annual police report, there were 736 theft cases in 2022. 

The police see more theft during big house parties and when students leave for spring break, Magruder said. 

“We used to have nonstop burglaries because individuals that were committing those crimes knew people were out of town, so they took advantage of it,” Magruder said.

The Ohio Revised Code defines burglary as the act of someone trespassing in a building that is occupied by another person and planning to commit a crime. 

Crime in Athens

Within the past five years, there have been 22 cases, although 10 cases were just reports. The most recent burglary occurred on Jan. 1, 2024.

Magruder said there is also a spike in crime during popular weekends, like Fest Season.

“(Fest weekends) bring in a lot of people that are not from the area and don't understand or have the same kind of commitment to Athens that people that are going to school here or live here do,” he said. “(They) think this is just lawless and free for all, and we’ve kind of had to correct some behavior in the past.”

Breaking and entering is similar to burglary; however, it is defined by the Ohio Revised Code as the act of entering an unoccupied structure and planning to commit a crime. 


Within the past five years, there have been nearly 250 cases. On average, that’s about 50 situations a year. 

Out of all the cases, over 200 haven’t been charged to an individual. 

The police have taken reports for about 50 areas in Athens, but Columbus Road has seen about 39 reports of breaking and entering. West Union Street follows closely with about 34 reports. 

Since the start of 2024, there has been one case of breaking and entering, which took place on Jan. 22 at the Vmw Car Wash, located at 184 Columbus Rd.

Magruder said crime does happen, and students should be mindful of it. 

“All it takes is one drunk person to be stupid and make a silly situation pretty serious, especially when we come across fights and assaults,” he said. 

The most recent fight was on Feb. 4, 2024, at Decorative Injections at 44 N. Court St. Katherine Donnelly was charged with the state code disorderly conduct – fighting or threatening.

The city and state codes don’t have “much difference,” but the city code keeps the fine charge local rather than giving all of the money to the state, Magruder said.

There have been 14 cases of fighting at the state code since 2019, and there have been 94 cases for the city code within the same timeframe. 

At least six reported fights have broken out at bars, including Cat’s Corner, located at 110 W. Union St., Stephen’s Bar and Restaurant, The J Bar, Pawpurr’s Bar and The Crystal, all located along Court Street.

First-year psychology student Vivian Dennis said she was told from the first week of classes that certain homes on campus were to be avoided. 

These include houses that are well known for parties where rumored sexual assaults have allegedly occurred.

According to the 2022 APD annual report, there were 20 “miscellaneous sex offenses.” Magruder said the offenses include “exposures,” which have been dealt with a couple of times. There were also 22 reported rapes in 2022. 

“Our sexual assault reports luckily, thank God, went down over the last couple of years,” Magruder said. “Once we take those calls, those are probably our most serious calls to make sure we work right and protect any kind of issues for the victim or the survivor.”


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