Campus Security is an important presence to have on any college campus. Here at the University of Denver, our Department of Campus Safety states their mission to be: “To advance the quality of life on campus using community-focused safety and access solutions.” However, the relationship between the student body and campus officers can sometimes become strained under the pressure of the strict rules that are enforced here at DU.
According to Statista, the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred in 2007 was the third most deadly shooting in America since 1982. (This is an important point as this list was not limited simply to college campuses, the first and second worst that came before it was the Orland nightclub shooting and the Aurora theater shooting.) With gun violence reaching all time highs and media coverage, college campuses are at high alert when it comes to protecting their students.
However, murder is the least reported crime at college campuses nationwide, “from 2005 to 2007, more than 100 murders, 16,000 assaults and 10,000 forcible sexual assaults were reported on college campuses – amounting to an average of more than nine sexual assaults a day.” (concealedcampus.org)
In an interview conducted on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, Doug Hasty, the Lieutenant- Manager of Patrol Operations at the University of Denver said that, “[the most prevalent crime on campus is] probably theft of bikes or other unsecured property.” He shared that theft at the library is relatively high with people leaving their laptops out, and others coming and taking them. The most documented on-campus crime since September of 2015 has been liquor law violations, with almost 40 reports.
One wonders what prompts someone to become an on-campus security officer when the majority of crimes that they deal with seem so mundane, and even irritating. Hasty shared that his least favorite call to report to “were the intrusion alarm calls we get” He states that “dealing with the students is something that I always enjoyed.” A certain type of person is certainly required for this job, and Hasty seems to fit that perfectly, sharing that his most important task is to “provide students with the proper resources” that they need to live a safe and happy life on campus.
The reports of rape are up nationwide by up to 30 percent, and 7 rapes were already reported at DU by March of this year. However, a question of wether or not the rate of sexual crime itself is actually up, or if schools are just more pressured to actually report them when a victim speaks up.
A sophomore at DU who preferred to remain unnamed said that, “there is a feeling of a lack of trust between students and [campus security]. I hear so many stories from people I know of horrible incidents including sexual assault that just go unrecognized, wether they’re too scared to report out of fear of the school coming after them, or when they do report it, but nothing seems to happen. But, students get written up every day for such small offenses like having an empty bottle in their room. It just makes me wonder what their true goal is as officers, to protect us or to get us in trouble.”
The lack of a relationship between the student body and campus security is something that has not gone unnoticed to Lieutenant Hasty, “[I think that there is] a lack of knowledge, not a lack of trust. The biggest problem is the misrepresentation that campus security gets.” As a result of this, he said this is where the divide begins to form. He says that the problem goes both ways, though, and that yes, there are a few “bad apples” that sometimes put the students in a bad light in officer’s eyes.
“My job is a hybrid of response to safety and medical aspects,” he said, adding that the campus security themselves are not the ones to throw students in Detox, which “picks up public inebriates throughout the City of Denver and safely transports them…”
An unnamed sophomore who has been documented by campus police shared that “I feel like what I’ve been caught for has been stupid, like one time I got written up for having an empty shot glass on the table with ‘residue’ in it. Things that other people do, and even stuff that I do myself is so much worse…so I just wonder how they catch people for such small things and not the more dangerous things. I definitely don’t think that [the relationship between campus security and students] isn’t good…I feel like every story I’ve heard has been a bad one.”
On the other hand, sophomore Molly Frey, who has never been written up by campus security, shared a more optimistic view of campus security, saying that, “I feel like the people who aren’t compliant are the ones that get in trouble. If you…agree and just kind of go along with it you should be fine.” Yet, she added that “I feel like they’re good at their jobs but sometimes they try too hard to crackdown, at the student’s expense.”
In Evaluation Review: A Journal of Applied Social Research (accessed through SAGE), an article titled “A Geospatial Mixed Methods Approach to Assessing Campus Safety” stated that, according to several surveys that had been completed at campuses at a southeastern university, “indicated that undergraduate students viewed campus safety as a topic of high priority but low student satisfaction.”
This seems to also be the case here at the University of Denver. The question is: How do we improve the ties between campus security and the student body so that more serious crimes do no go unreported? How do we establish trust between the two groups? What can we do to make this campus the safest it can be?
As Lieutenant Hasty said, communication and education is key, “As a human, you can be affected emotionally by this job. We’re all in this community together and we all have to work together.”