Editorial: While crime rates haven’t increased in recent years, students deserve to feel safe.

Although MUPD’s statement on the recent burst of Clery reports is accurate, not all is said and done.

After a five-month streak without Clery releases from the MU Police Department, students received four within the last month and a half of the school year. To compare, students only received two in the same timeframe in 2014 and three in 2013.

The sudden burst of crime reports inspired fear and concern from students, many of whom feel that there has been an increase in crime on campus and downtown. Instances such as the shooting in the Hitt Street garage, the robbery near the Stankowski volleyball courts and numerous reports of crime in Greektown have only exacerbated this impression among students.

In direct response to these feelings of insecurity, MUPD released a statement, which calls these impressions false and misguided. The statement explains that crime in Columbia and on MU’s campus has not increased significantly in the last 20 years, and that the violent crime index remained at relatively the same level despite an increase of 13,000 students to the university. According to the MUPD and Columbia Police Department websites, these statistical claims are all accurate.

While the students may indeed be far safer than they perceive, this doesn’t mean that MUPD should stop striving to reduce crime on campus and in Columbia – and they haven’t. According to the statement, MUPD officer positions have increased by eight percent this year in conjunction with an increase in staff among investigative units.

Furthermore, MUPD increased the number of emergency alerts that are broadcasted across the campus community, which can easily be misinterpreted as an increase in crime on campus. So while the rate of crime has not significantly changed over the last 20 years, students are hearing about it directly from the authorities themselves far more than they have in the past.

We recognize that the recent burst of Clery releases is not indicative of an increase in crime on campus; however, that doesn’t detract or disparage the fact that there is serious, violent crime still happening on campus. Although this might be a bit obvious (next thing you know, we’ll be saying the world is a dangerous place), it means that MUPD must always be striving to decrease on-campus crime in general.

Increasing the number of police patrols on campus and the number of staff on investigative teams could be an effective means of decreasing on-campus crime. However, when it comes to making students feel safe on campus, it would be more useful to educate and prepare students for a campus where crime, violent and nonviolent, happens every single semester. This is not to say that such initiatives do not already exist, however. MUPD supported and assisted with the administration of the Green Dot Program and the Citizens Response to Active Threats program as well as the expansion of the women’s self defense program Rape Aggression Defense.

The next step in crime education for MU students should begin at the beginning, the very beginning – Summer Welcome. While Green Dot exists as an effective means of encouraging bystander intervention, as of now, there are programs present at Summer Welcome like CRAT that deal specifically in avoiding crime on campus or what a student should do in such a situation. A basic educational program of this nature should exist for students from the beginning of their time at MU, even if it is as basic as informing students they could be robbed at Stankowski Field while the sun is still setting.

MSA Senate Speaker Kevin Carr pointed out the poor lighting conditions in East Campus. An effort to increase street lighting around East Campus emerged in the form of a petition earlier this year but seems to have vanished since then. This student initiative was a great start, but this concept needs to be taken even further by the university itself, which ought to petition the city for improved lighting that could reduce crime.

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