By Meaghan Menzel
New students who come to Washington College have many concerns. One of them most likely includes their safety in a new environment. This is what WC’s Public Safety is for.
Public Safety is the campus’ security force. Their office is located in the lower level of Wicomico Residence Hall, and their officers are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nevertheless, Public Safety Director Gerald Roderick has a few tips that can help students get through the year safely and possibly without having to make any calls and reports to Public Safety at all.
“As we start the new school year,” said Roderick, “there are several things you can do to protect your belongings and protect yourselves.”
His first tip to protect belongings includes checking the serial numbers and models of all valuables such as iPods and computers. Students might write it down or keep a copy with parents back home.
“That way,” Roderick said, “if an item goes missing, we have a way of tracking it.”
He also said, “Don’t keep [the list of serial numbers] on your hard drive, because if your laptop’s stolen, then you don’t have it.”
Another tip Roderick has for incoming students is, “If there’s any security technology out there that you have that you can track your devices, take full advantage of it.”
Most smart phones today can download a locator app, so if the phone goes missing, then the user can track it on a computer. Roderick has one himself, and it didn’t cost him anything.
However, one effective way to avoid losing something valuable in the first place, such as a laptop or phone, is to keep it with you at all times. Valuables should not be left alone unless a friend is around to watch them.
“Last year we had several laptops and cell phones stolen, and typically they were stolen when people left them behind or left them unattended,” Roderick said.
These are very important tips for securing belongings, but Roderick also has advice for how to protect one’s self.
“Obviously we want people to go back to using common sense,” he said. “Everything you were taught by mom and dad up to age seven still applies today.”
This includes walking in groups and staying in well lit areas— anything that can help you avoid encounters with suspicious characters.
“For the most part, we’re in a pretty safe community, if students take proper care and caution,” Roderick said. But he also said, “We need to remind people that Chestertown does have some bad people in it… If you create an opportunity for a crime to occur, there’s a very good chance it may just do that. Most criminals are opportunists.”
One tool is the LiveSafe app, which can be downloaded to a smart phone to alert students of suspicious activity on campus and deal with problems they may encounter. It includes four different monitors that allow users to report tips, contact Public Safety, view maps, and locate anyone in the phone’s contacts. This feature is included in case users are walking together in a city or mall but get separated. If they both have this app, then they can find each other. Public Safety also has the ability to monitor students who have this app.
“We have the LiveSafe Master Screen in the office,” Roderick said. “If you were to call in a complaint, it’d show me exactly on the map where the complaint is coming from.”
It also helps Public Safety to view pictures of suspicious activity that students or staff may send in with tips. This can be done through the LiveSafe app.
Roderick said that with a picture, “you’re giving me a lot more information than I would ever have from a simple phone call.”
Even without the LiveSafe app, Public Safety can be reached at 410-778-7810, call or text. The office receives texts on their computers, which allows the person messaging them to remain anonymous if they so desire.
Another measure Public Safety is taking to secure students’ well-being is installing electronic access to the residence halls. Some dorms like Middle Hall currently unlock with a key. Public Safety plans to convert these kinds of locks to the card access.
“It helps us monitor when the doors are propped open,” Roderick said. This way, they can see where they need to lock doors.
Overall, thanks to the measures Public Safety has set up, most students won’t have to call them. However, if ever there is a problem, the staff and officers of Public Safety hope that no student will hesitate to call or message them.
“Our job is to protect you,” Roderick said. “If we’re all taking our responsibilities seriously… then we will have a safe campus. And I need the support of our faculty, our staff, and our students to be effective in doing that job of keeping the community safe.”