Is EMU really safe?
More than 50 crimes involving sexual assault, theft, burglary, violence, vandalism, and harassments were reported on EMU’s campus within the first two months of the 2017 fall semester, according to the daily crime log.
To improve safety and security on campus, The Board of Regents approved a $13.8 million capital budget for the 2017-2018 school year. More than $1 million of that capital budget will go towards safety and security enhancements.
“The money is going to further installation of cameras,” said EMU spokesperson Geoffrey Larcom. This budget will pay to install 50 new security cameras in addition to the 800 already on campus. Larcom also mentioned the money will provide further installation of automated external defibrillators and continued improved disability access, such as sidewalks. But is that enough to reduce crimes and improve safety on campus?
“Whether we need more is tricky. I think a question we need to ask ourselves is how much privacy we are willing to exchange for more security in cameras,” said student body president Miles Payne.
“Personally, I believe that we are in an era in which we crave personal accountability and I do believe more cameras can assist in that increase in need. Of course, this cannot be the only answer, but it is a start. So once again, not enough, but certainly a big step in the right direction.” He continued.
Payne mentioned that $1 million is an approximate 40 percent increase in security spending from two years ago, therefore it should cover much more than what was listed for safety and security advancements.
“The extra money can be used for many aspects of campus that may directly or indirectly affect security. Directly, the campus has put up many more lights around campus, but there are still places on campus that could use some extra lighting, and I am going to continue to push that progress,” said Payne.
“Indirectly, upgrading campus facilities; roads, card swipes into buildings, and so on. I believe those also have an impact on overall campus security and I would like the campus to be able to see some of those upgrades as well,” said Payne.
When asked if the $1 million was also going to help increase the force, Larcom said no.
“Our police force was expanded several years ago to its present numbers,” said Larcom.
Larcom explained that the university’s campus is a safe environment for students.
“Annual crime statistics show that our campus is very safe, and these new cameras continue to help contribute to the safety and security of our students and staff, which is of utmost priority to the University,” said Larcom.
In contrast to the annual crime statistics Larcom mentioned, other statistics have shown otherwise. Here’s a look at the 2016 reports ranging from burglary and arson to rape and fondling at EMU from MLive’s campus crime statistics.
These reports cover crimes that occurred on campus, public property within or adjacent to campus, or off-campus buildings owned or operated by a university. Crime that occurs at off-campus student housing or apartment complexes isn’t included, according to MLive.
Based on these statistics, EMU is in fact not the safest place. However, compared to some of the other Michigan public universities, EMU is has a much safer campus than the others.
“Crimes such as assault happen a lot less here compared to other universities because we have so many people around campus; too many witnesses. Criminals don’t like witnesses, they don’t like to be identified,” said EMU police department officer Andrea Elliot.
“EMU’s campus is safer because of the emergency phones we have located on campus, we have Seeus staff that escort students after dark, and we have officer presence and cameras.”
According to EMU’s 2014-2016 Crime Statistical Summary there has been an increase in rape, illegal weapons possession, and domestic violence on campus.
This data shows there is an issue at hand, which is whether 50 cameras are necessary in relation to crimes such as these.
Officer Elliot agreed that these additional cameras are necessary. “I believe a huge amount, maybe even a vast majority of our crimes are solved using cameras, we’ve even assisted the city with our cameras to help them solve crimes” said Elliot.
Elliot explained that security cameras on campus play a strong role in identifying criminals or suspects involved in crimes.
“Things like sexual assault increasing, that does makes the campus not as safe, however these people that doing the sexual assault are not people jumping out of the bushes attacking, they’re usually people the victim is acquainted with,” said Elliot.
Elliot said that by victims knowing who their assaulter was, helps them solve and address the crime.
“The reason why we probably have a greater increase in rape as far as statistics show is because we have an increase in reporting, it’s not necessarily happening more,” said Elliot.
Elliot also mentioned that theft is one of the biggest problems on campus currently in addition to the increase in weapon possession, rape and violence.
But what initiatives are taken when reports of rape, assault or theft is reported?
Can 50 new cameras and these other security advancements really help solves those type of crimes, especially when some of these crimes happen in private areas where cameras aren’t allowed?
“It’s a lot harder to solve crimes that happened in a private area. A lot of that depends on the witnesses or victim,” said Elliot.
Officer Elliot discussed that sometimes the police department can get lucky, and have a camera just outside the area of the incident, which could be a benefit towards to handling the incident.
“We watch these cameras to see who is coming and going and we consider the time and clothing that they’re wearing,” said Elliot.
Ypsilanti’s crime ratings also can sometimes affect the number of crimes that can happen on campus on near campus.
“The hardest part is when we get juveniles or non-students that come onto campus. We call them ‘frequent flyers,’ people who come on a regular basis that to pray on students,” said Elliot.
According to CollegeFactual.com EMU earned an overall crime rating of a C+ when compared to reported on-campus, city, and regional crime against all other schools nationwide. When compared with other towns and cities nationwide, Ypsilanti ranks far above average in overall crime, making it potentially unsafe and more likely students may fall victim to a crime.
“Several years ago, EMU also expanded its patrol boundaries further off campus,” said Larcom in response to the city’s crime rates. Larcom also noted that the new campus security cameras are only on campus. The University does not have authority to place cameras in the city.
Larcom also discussed the crime alerts the university sends to students to warn them of crimes that happen near campus or in the city that could possibly affect the campus environment.
“Any off campus crime advisory that is issued follows the description the victim gives to police, and is as detailed and accurate as possible in order to help secure any further information about the incident. The majority of these crime alerts are for off-campus incidents,” said Larcom.
The university also considers any crime that happens within a one mile radius of campus, is also a campus crime. However, there are some cases where a crime has happened within that one-mile radius and is still considered to be an off-campus crime.
Similar to these three off-campus reports, some of the other off-campus reports that were emailed from the police department are in walking distance or are directly across the street from campus, which can be considered within a one-mile radius of campus.
“The university owns certain properties, but other properties that are considered off-campus even if it’s across the street, they don’t belong to the university,” said Elliot.
“Those properties are in the city’s jurisdiction, so if something happened across the street the city would primarily respond to it. It’s just a matter of geographic [area], we aren’t the primary responding agency to those crimes happening on properties that are not owned by the university.”
Officer Elliot mentioned that if a crime that happened within the one mile radius or beyond it involves a student from EMU, the police department will act as a secondary response and offer additional resources that may help the students.
In order to stop the increase in certain crimes on campus officer Elliot said the EMU police department has to increase the amount of patrolling, increase number of officers communicating with students, and develop a good rapport with students so they can feel comfortable coming to the campus police when there is a problem.
“We have about 38 officers that can be in more places, be more available to people. Try to walk the buildings, promote the Crime Prevention Program to make people more aware of how to protect themselves,” said Elliot. “We are always trying to improve by collaborating with another department, even faculty and staff.”