Campus safety debated after recent crimes

Between 2011 and 2014, MUPD saw a 50 percent increase in violent crimes.

The phone rings, and a text comes in. But it’s not the typical, “Hey, what’s up?” — it’s a text from MU Alert saying there’s been shots fired near campus. This was the case for most MU students April 21, when exactly that happened.

Although on this instance the situation was reported “stabilized” within an hour of the alert, it was only one of several times students were notified of possible threats on campus this past year, including alerts about armed robberies and assaults.

In a May 12 Maneater article, MU junior Bryan Hill said he thought more crime occurred in Greektown this year than last year.

“Crime, like people breaking into houses, has always been on like east and west campus, but I feel like it’s just funneling to the university now,” Hill said.

After going more than five months without a Clery release, MU Police Department sent out four within the last month and a half of the school year, compared to two during the same timeframe in 2014, and three during this timeframe in 2013 (all discluding updates).

On May 13, MUPD Chief Douglas Schwand sent students an email addressing recent crime incidents on campus. Schwand said MU Alerts suggested MU’s campus was becoming increasingly dangerous, while he said MUPD records indicate the opposite.

MUPD sent out nine Clery releases between August 2014 and May 2015, compared to ten Clery releases between August 2013 and May 2014 (all discluding updates).

However, according to MUPD’s records, between 2011 and 2014 MUPD saw a 50 percent increase in violent crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

MU junior Kevin Carr, the Missouri Students Association Senate speaker, said while he thinks students are safer than they perceive, there are some parts of campus where he doesn't feel safe, even as a “fairly tall male.” Those parts of campus include East Campus and near AV-14, where street lights often don’t function properly, he said.

“City officials need to figure out how they are going to properly manage East Campus,” Carr said in an email. “Poor lighting is the No. 1 issue for East Campus residents, and it makes them feel very unsafe to walk around at night.”

Although MU junior Connor Holzinger said he knows the MUPD said there has not been an increase in crime, he said the increase in alerts makes it feel that way.

“I normally feel pretty safe on campus, but the recent events have made me question if campus is as safe as it appears to be,” Holzinger said in an email. “... I was really upset about the situation in Hitt Street garage. The fact that students weren't notified until after the suspect was neutralized makes me question the reliability and timeliness of MU’s communications in regard to emergencies and events like this. If MU is going to use the system, they need to make sure that they're doing it in a way that won't cause panic as a result.”

In a May MUPD statement concerning recent crime events, MUPD said that by increasing the number of MU Alerts, their ability to identify and arrest offenders increased. According to the statement, MUPD investigated nine on-campus crimes since April, six of which have been solved. The statement was released before the May 29 incident on-campus, when a woman was raped near University Hall.

The statement also outlined efforts MUPD made to “maintain campus safety.” Some of these efforts include increasing officer positions by 8 percent in the past year, increasing student security positions across campus and adding cameras throughout campus.

MUPD spokesman Brian Weimer said MUPD also encourages students to utilize their programs aimed at teaching students how to “react and respond” to intruders, taught in the Citizens Response to Active Threat Incidents course, or to defend themselves, which is taught in the Rape Aggression Defense course. They also support the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center’s program “Green Dot,” which educates students on how to prevent “Red Dots,” or campus violence of any form, from happening.

“(These courses have) provided the community information so they can make educated choices when it comes to their safety and assists with the community policing concept,” Weimer said in an email.

Carr, however, said it shouldn’t be the responsibility of potential victims to make the campus a safer place.

“I don't feel as if promoting self-defence is a great tactic, because that puts the burden of creating safety on the individual being attacked,” Carr said. “Realistically, it's a great last-resort mechanism, but ideally no one would be even in the position to have to use it.”

Weimer said MUPD’s overall goal is to make campus safer for students.

“We will continue to look at our community’s needs and work with them to ensure safety,” he said.

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