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Perceived campus safety threats conflict with reality

MAY 6, 2010

School safety and security have been in the headlines in recent years, especially after the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007. News from urban areas focuses on crime rates both on and around campus and also certain college activities such as drug and alcohol abuse.

For college campuses situated in urban areas, issues tend to arise around safety. Perception of crime and safety affect many aspects of community life, and generally, students who attend urban area schools consider it a prominent concern.

Students who attend school and live in these types of areas tend to believe they are subject to substantially higher crime rates than those in more rural or suburban locations.  Whether crime rates are actually higher, it is clear that perception leads to increased fear of criminal victimization.

When talking about safety concerns, CSU’s Vice President for Business Affairs and Finance, Jack Boyle, said he believes psychological issues are more of a barrier than real ones and people need to feel safe.

With tuition rates lower than most other colleges in Ohio, safety is clearly a factor that could be holding back student enrollment at Cleveland State University.

“The low cost of tuition at Cleveland State University is a bonus, but what concerns me is the location of campus. I want to feel secure in where I send my daughter,” said Lori Hagan, the mother of a Cuyahoga County Community College student who is looking for a college.

Campus safety and security have always been on the agenda of most college orientations, but with a college that lies in the heart of the city, it is an important topic.

Norman Krumholz, professor at Levin College of Urban Affairs suggests that, as a community, CSU has some of the lowest crime rates in the state on an urban campus.

Plans to expand the campus should decrease the crime rate even further.

The Cleveland State University Police Department includes police officers, security officers, student escorts and dispatchers.  The Campus Watch program, modeled after neighborhood watch programs, also contributes the observant eyes and ears of staff and faculty to help the safety effort.

CSU has more police officers per square foot than any other urban area. 

Boyle noted that the police and safety watch will also grow as the university expands. The RTA metro police will be tied in with the Cleveland Police Department, security at Tri-C and safety forces at St. Vincent Charity Hospital.

In a small-based community, such as the approximately 1,000 students living on campus, the cooperation, involvement and personal support of the student is essential to the success of safety on campus. 

Junior Chad Divincenzo, a safety escort highly recommends using the escort system, especially if a student feels even a little hesitant in walking alone.

“Students are able to call us whenever they feel unsafe and if we’re here, why not use us?” Divincenzo says. “Better safe than sorry.”

According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, safety is the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss.

The safety and well-being of student residents through a community effort is a priority advertised in the slogan “see something, say something.”