Does Public Safety Make You Feel Safe on Campus?

Mason Brooks, Managing Editor

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It is an interesting time we live in for sure.  As college students, we are exposed to all sorts of news, both nationally, and locally, that can deeply affect us.  Politics aside, one trend we see in the media a lot nowadays, is regarding violence on school campuses.  Whether this be related to acts of mass violence such as shootings that make national headlines or local stories of violence on campus, such as last year’s stabbing resulting in the arrest of Jake Wascher, it is understandable that some students may feel uneasy.  Having a safe campus is obviously a paramount concern for any university.  Not only is keeping the students physically safe important, but it should also be important for students to feel safe at their University.

There is an important distinction here; even if the statistics show that not many incidents occur at the University of Hartford, that does not always mean the students themselves feel safe.  You see this especially in today’s social climate because of all the media coverage of violent acts.  My suggestion is not to say that coverage is a bad thing, as it brings awareness of these tragedies to the public, which is essential.  However, the news does worry people, and can cause them to feel unsafe on their own college campuses, even if an extreme incident has never occurred there.  It is then the responsibility of an institution to help create an environment in which its students feel safe. That being said, I set out across campus to ask this question: does the University of Hartford’s Public Safety make you feel safe on campus? What I found is a mixed-bag of opinions regarding Public Safety’s impact on campus safety.

A senior visual communications design major, who would like to remain anonymous, discussed with me how she feels about Public Safety.

“The Public Safety Officers are really nice, and I would definitely feel comfortable going up to any of them in the case of an emergency… however, I would not feel safe or comfortable talking to [dispatch] about an emergency because I have had several negative experiences with [dispatch personnel].”

She went on to explain her worries about overall campus safety as well.

“There is no protection at the entrance except for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights after 10 p.m. which is so ridiculous.”

“There also aren’t a lot of those emergency blue light buttons around. Walking from park river to the Village at night in the dark is so scary, and I don’t see any Public Safety or those lights anywhere.”

This student did wrap up her thoughts by mentioning this, “Overall, I hate to talk badly about Public Safety because I do like many of the officers, as they are very nice and I would feel comfortable approaching them, but there could definitely be improvements to make this campus a safer place.”

What I soon came to learn by exploring this question, “Does Public Safety make you feel safe on campus?”, is that students do not necessarily have that many complaints about the Public Safety officers themselves, but rather, certain institutional things such as weak entrance security and the lack of many emergency blue light systems in place.  Or rather, that these blue lights are not visible enough.

A sophomore mechanical engineering major, Theodore Carey, has experience working with Public Safety and gave me his thoughts on the sense of security PS gives the University of Hartford.

“This year I was working for SCA in the Public Safety Command Center during move-in weekend and got a whole new perspective on PS.  I saw them interact with students and parents, and the huge responsibility that is.”

After witnessing Public Safety officers respond to a student emergency, Ted had this to tell me, “Seeing Public Safety respond to that emergency on campus last week, I can say that they are definitely here for our safety, and are trained in how to act during high-risk situations.”

Even with this positive view of Public Safety’s affect on student safety, Ted still seemed to feel uncomfortable with the overall safety on the University of Hartford campus.

“Honestly, I don’t feel safe on campus.  Anyone who is not affiliated with the University can come through any of the three entrances on campus, and we don’t know what their intentions are.  Also a lot of other Universities have more emergency blue light systems around; wherever you are standing you can see them around… I don’t even know where they are on this campus.”

Are we seeing a trend here?  As a student, I have heard a lot from my peers in the past about how they wish Public Safety would get off their backs about quiet hours, or parking violations, but it seems to me they are the ones keeping us safe on campus.  Especially with less than extraordinary security measures like the blue lights and open campus entrances, it seems like we can always at least turn to the Public Safety officers as a safety resource.

Matthew Maiello, a junior computer science major, had quite a frightening story to tell me. “Up until recently I have felt pretty safe [on campus], but this past week I was followed by a strange vehicle near the Village Apartments.  Around 1 a.m. I was walking out of Village Quad 5 into the parking lot and there was this dark colored car, possibly with tinted windows so I couldn’t see who was in the vehicle.  My car was parked in N Lot, and as I was walking to my spot this vehicle was inching slowly behind me, and when I crossed the street, this car just zoomed up to me and came to screeching halt just a few feet short of where I was standing.”

During this frightening encounter, Matt did what he saw as his only option.

“I saw a Public Safety car in the Regents Lot and ran as quickly as I could towards them, which is when the vehicle behind me violently peeled off and left the scene.”

We can learn a lot from Matt’s reaction.  By running to Public Safety, it shows that he trusted they would be able to keep him safe.  Ask yourself, if you were in that situation and a strange vehicle was following you, wouldn’t you seek out safety as well?  In this case, it is a good thing Public Safety was there as a resource for him to retreat to.  Perhaps if they were not there, that encounter could have had a much worse outcome.

Overall, it seems as though students do not fully feel safe on this campus.  The impression I get is that Public Safety does help make students feel safer, but just having officers around, is not enough. In an era such as today’s where so much attention is being brought to acts of violence, students should be able to feel safe about where they are studying, and living.  Some suggestions I heard to make the campus feel safer include increasing the quantity and visibility of blue light systems, developing more secure entrances, and adding more cameras around the apartments to catch potential criminal activity.

Do you have other insights on the way Public Safety or the University of Hartford handles student safety? Let me know by emailing me at [email protected].  The worry about campus safety is unfortunately not likely to go away anytime soon, so it is important to think about what you would like to see to make you feel safe on campus.  If you would like to reach out to Public Safety for a routine call you can dial 860-768-7985.  For emergencies, make sure to call the 24-hour emergency hotline at 860-768-7777.

PHOTO COURTESY OF HERCAMPUS.COM