BY CHASE GORSKI
Safety. It’s one of the key variables that parents and prospective students consider when searching for colleges to apply for.
Parents spend hours making sure that wherever they send their child to college, they will be safe. In today’s world it is unlikely to find a school that is crime-free, so what is important is finding a school that offers both on and off-campus safety.
According to a study done by backgroundchecks.org Salisbury University was ranked among the 15 safest colleges in the state of Maryland in 2016. With less than one crime per one thousand students, SU remains one of the safest state universities.
The Chief of the Salisbury University Police Department (SUPD), Edwin Lashley, has an upfront view of the experiences around the university. After 12 years as Chief of Police, Lashley see theft as the biggest crime concern on-campus.
“Violent crimes on campus are extremely low, in some cases non-existent,” Chief Lashley said.
Due to the numerous safety measures that the university has taken, including campus surveillance and new facilities with better lighting, Chief Lashley feels that the campus is a safe refuge for both students and the community.
In terms of off-campus safety, students are more vulnerable and the biggest worry is theft along with possible assaults. In recent semesters students living off-campus have had problems with community members hearing about events on social media and causing problems.
“Crime is a matter of opportunity,” Chief Lashley said. “There are people out there who just wait for that opportunity to come to a party and steal things.”
These problems are closely monitored by multiple organizations including Student Affairs and SU Police. The university publishes security reports with crime statistics annually on their websites in order to keep the community aware of what occurs.
But with such a low crime rate, the focus for the administration and SUPD is crime prevention and preparation. SU Police have shown their ability to do so after receiving the Governor’s Crime Prevention Award in 2016.
Another group that handles various crime prevention initiatives is the university’s Safety Task Force.
The task force, headed by Vice President of Student Affairs Dane Foust, is comprised of people from various organizations including the university police chief, student government officials, the university attorney, environmental health and safety (EHS) officers and many others.
“A large component of [the task force] is communication, sharing information, discussing issues or concerns and collaborating on programs and events,” Dr. Foust said.
SGA Senator Taylor Garner sat on the Safety Task Force during the Fall 2016 semester and has been a part of these crime prevention tactics taken by the university. She wants students interested in Salisbury University to know how safe they will be.
“I wish I had known that campus was as safe as it is,” Garner said. “It’s so safe here on campus everything is well-lit and there are blue lights everywhere.”
Throughout the task force, each organization has a hand in the numerous safety programs that are promoted through the university. The Salisbury Student Government Association (SGA) is has played a key role along with the SUPD in promoting crime prevention on and off-campus.
Here is a list of the different safety measures that have been established at SU:
- Safety Walk-the SUPD along with SGA, maintenance crews and EHS walk the SU campus each semester looking for potential hazards or danger zones
- “Blue Lights”-emergency phones, found all throughout campus, that students can press if in danger and SUPD will respond within 90 seconds
- Pedestrian Safety Campaign-The installation of crossing lights on streets near campus buildings and off-campus housing promoting crosswalk safety
- 911 Shield App-A smartphone app adopted by SGA and SUPD for students to maintain their safety when walking around campus. Students can use the app to monitor their friends’ safety as well
- Tabletop Exercises-Various training events that help to prepare the university in case of emergencies such as an active shooter, bomb threats or natural disasters
- Robocop-Promoted by SGA and still being tested, a personal sound grenade that once separated from its top emits 120 decibels
- COM-a crime-mapping website that provides up-to-date crimes that are local to your area and allows students to accurately monitor their safety
Along with these initiatives are various training programs aimed towards problems like sexual assault, drug and alcohol awareness and theft prevention. These programs encourage students to be more than a bystander, and to look out for one another.
SU also has a “Silent Witness” program featured on their website in which people can anonymously report any information they have about possible crimes they have witnessed.
University officials still want students to take all measures to maintain their own personal safety, despite all of the programs set in place for them.
“We have a relatively safe campus––but that doesn’t mean crime doesn’t occur,” Dr. Foust said.
Dr. Foust and Chief Lashley, along with other members of the SU community, want to ensure that students have all of the necessary tools they need to keep themselves away from potential risks. Their personal tips for safety include:
- Never walk alone––especially at night
- Remember that while campus is relatively safe, crime can still occur
- Get to know the campus and surrounding community in order to know where you are at all times
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Use social media wisely
- Adequately secure any belongings to avoid theft
- Always lock doors to your homes and/or vehicles
- Register your belongings such as bikes or laptops with the SUPD
The Salisbury University website also provides an in depth look at more programs and advice from the university in their annual security report
Students at SU are provided with many programs that help to keep them safe, and organizations like SGA continuously work to address and solve new problems. With these tools and the tips given by the school, parents can worry less if their children become an SU Sea Gulls.