By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
On Oct. 7, the annual Security and Fire Report was released by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). This 59 page report discloses campus crime statistics and security information. A majority of it is dedicated to general information, such as campus policies and programs related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and more. Three years of crime statistics are at the end of the report.
The report also specifies general safety information of which students might not be fully aware. For example, officers are special commission police officers and have authority on property owned and controlled by Washington College; the DPS also has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Chestertown Police Department, an agreement to respect each party’s decisions. The report then details ways to make anonymous tips — either on the public safety website or through the LiveSafe app — and safety measures on campus. WAC Alerts are sent to students by either email or text about a crime in town or on campus, evacuations, or severe weather. The College will also increase its use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera systems, according to the report.
There are several ways to be informed about safety on campus. Options like the Maria Falzone talk “Sex Rules” and the mandatory “Think About It” program educate WC students about identifying violence and defining it.
Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick spoke about the value of the emergency phones with blue lights on campus. Currently, there are 54 blue lights; however, some of the lights in more accessible locations went out sometime after crew inspections. This has led to a discussion of possible alternatives to the lights, as their upkeep is very expensive and usage is low.
“It requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep the lights running, and Public Safety does not receive a lot of calls from them. The question we have to ask the students is ‘should the blue lights be continued now that we have invested in LiveSafe?’” Roderick said.
In their 2016-2017 Platform, the Student Government Association (SGA), addressed concerns about the “proper functionality of the blue light campus alert system” and tasked the Campus Properties Committee to explore ways to improve the functionality of campus-wide alerting systems.
LiveSafe is an app that allows students to directly communicate with Public Safety when there is a problem — either including their name or anonymously. The app relays the problems and concerns more clearly and faster to Public Safety. The app was downloaded by most students during orientation week back in August. The SGA is working closely with Public Safety to get more students to download the app.
Other safety measures are being considered for the campus. More cameras were added, and Public Safety is looking into a campus-wide broadcast system the can be heard across the grounds as well as on the waterfront. Pat Elliott is the director of student services and campus properties for the SGA and also works with Public Safety. He said, “As Daylight Savings approaches, Director Roderick and I will be walking around campus to see which areas are too dark at night and need more lighting.”
With recent sexual assaults, safety on and off campus is a high priority. According to the report, in 2015, there were four forcible sexual offences, two of which were rape on campus, and an additional two in dormitory buildings or other residential facilities. There were also seven on-campus burglaries, and one vehicle theft. In comparison to other years, 2015 had the lowest number of crimes. However, there were 47 liquor law violations on campus, and 27 in residence halls, combined with the 21 on campus drug law violations and 19 residence halls violations. These numbers have increased each year, and can serve as evidence as to why safety programs like “Think About It” are essential on campus and why the Annual Crime and Safety Report should be available for student knowledge.
If you see a problem or are in trouble, call Public Safety at (410) 778-7810 or report through the LifeSafe app.