Public forums discuss safety on and off campus

Student safety on- and off-campus continues to be a major concern for Eastern Michigan University officials.

EMU President Susan Martin, along with EMU Police Chief Bob Heighes and Ypsilanti’s Interim Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, attended a series of public forums being held around campus last week to discuss safety issues with students.

“There are lots of things we can do to improve safety, and we’ll be taking a look at other campuses to see what best practices are,” Martin said at one of the forums.

Safety became a major concern for the EMU community three weeks ago after a series of crimes occurred on and around campus over the span of one weekend that included the death of EMU student Demarius Reed, who was found shot to death in front of his off-campus apartment at University Green, two off-campus assaults against students and two sexual assaults against students on campus.

Since then, EMU has expanded its police presence in the area just north of campus, and law enforcement officers from EMU’s police department as well as the Ypsilanti Police Department and Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department have begun going on joint patrols in the area.

“We want students to feel safe if they’re walking to campus,” said Martin, adding the crimes were an unfortunate series of events, but were a statistical outlier and are not reflective of the typical experience at EMU.

According to Chief Heighes, a mix of five police officers have been assigned to patrol the area at all times.

“It’s about being visible out there,” Heighes said. “So we’ve increased our presence up there.”

Besides increasing the police presence in the area, Martin said they were looking at other possibilities to improve safety.

“We’re going to take a look at what initiatives we can do and what some of the landlords can do as well to provide shuttles to campus,” Martin said.

Martin has also suggested increasing the number of security cameras at off-campus apartment complexes and other areas that could help improve safety.

“Cameras are forever, and they do deter and solve crimes,” Martin said. “It’s important that we have a conversation about cameras because they have made a huge difference on our campus and can make a huge difference in our community. That’s something we’re going to be taking a serious look at.”

Martin, Heighes and other college officials attended seven public forums around campus last week. Student attendance was low at several of the events, but Martin said they were getting a good response from students and staff.

“Overall I would say the campus is calm and positive and coming together to move forward to have a safe learning environment where students live,” Martin said.

As of Wednesday, no additional safety forums had been scheduled, but Martin said the university would continue to improve student safety, and that they would “try to make ourselves accessible as need be.”

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