Public Safety addresses student concerns

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Public Safety addresses student concerns

Following the past few weeks’ campus safety incidents, including a police operation, an alleged assault, an attempted kidnapping and  a reported gunman, Campus Life staff and Public Safety held a series of campus safety forums on Sept. 19 and 21 to raise awareness of safety protocols and precautions and to address students’ fears.

Sophomore Caroline Grossman has felt apprehensive on campus since the recent safety incidents.

“I felt very unsafe walking through the Community Center (the night of the police operation),” said Grossman. “That night it felt really weird … I had my keys in my hand, and I was walking through there like what is going on.”

The panels were intended to address fears that students such as Grossman expressed.

“(Their) purpose is to discuss campus safety,” said Jason Hill, community director for the north and south apartments and one of the leaders of the first forum. “(We want to address) emergency alerts and why you get those.”

Under the statutes of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990, Guilford is required to count crime reports, compile crime statistics, publish an annual security report and issue campus alerts during emergencies. Students receive these campus emergency alerts via phone and email.

“We try to make those (alerts) as clear as possible … we are also trying to and we have tried to become more timely in our response,” said Hill. “Please be conscious of what those alerts say and … protect yourself. Make sure that your safety is coming first.”

Besides campus alerts, Public Safety offers an escort service and POMCO devices to Guilford students.

“Basically the POM devices are a small keychain-type device,” said Director of Public Safety William Anderson. “They have a button that you push that immediately connects to Public Safety.”

Guilford has been offering POMCO devices since last year. Currently 165 students have the devices, which cost $20.

“I think the POM devices are not an equal substitute for a blue light (system), but they serve some of the same purposes,” said Susanna Westberg, the director of residential education and housing. “In some ways they’re more beneficial.”

Even with the POMCO devices available to students, Public Safety is still aiming to increase campus safety with the possible addition of campus security cameras.

“Right now we’re in discussion about camera surveillance systems… about installing cameras around campus,” said Anderson. “But we’re really just in the discussion phase right now.”

In addition to discussing protocols and safety measures, the Campus Life staff urged students to be more cautious around campus.

“We don’t want to make people paranoid, but we do want to make people very cautious,” said Westberg. “While nobody has the right to victimize you, if you can take precautions such as knowing emergency exits, for example, or the safest, most lit way to get to your car, or the most traveled paths around campus, I think that’s what we mean by knowing your surroundings and having an awareness.”

However, some student fears resulted from the larger police presence on campus over the past few weeks.

“So many people are uncomfortable with that because … there’s a lot more bias in policing,” said sophomore and forum attendee Joseph Patterson.

Since the Public Safety officers are not police officers and are unarmed, depending on the campus safety incident, Public Safety may call the Greensboro Police Department to investigate campus safety issues. However, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, Greensboro Police Officers were present on Guilford campus without being called by Public Safety.

“We did not place the call to (the Greensboro Police Department),” said Anderson in an email interview. “We learned of their presence after they were already on campus.”

The current tensions between police officers and students are not unknown to Anderson.

“We understand that in the United States right now, the relationship between police and the community is very fragmented,” said Anderson. “But we also understand the fact that we don’t want any kind of crimes occurring on campus.”

“We have to ask local law enforcement to help us with that.”

Despite the many campus safety concerns in recent weeks, Grossman believes the protocol and responses of Public Safety are better than those of last year.

“Last year there was a sexual assault on campus,” said Grossman. “Public Safety didn’t do a great job … They weren’t really respecting the students.

“They’re doing better (this year). It’s good to see that they’re improving.”

Anderson believes that the campus safety incidents of the past few weeks are anomalies.

“I call (Guilford) probably one of the safest campuses on the planet,” said Anderson. “This past week was an anomaly for us, but we still got to do what we got to do to make sure everybody’s safe.”

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