SRU makes campus safety a top priority

campus safety

Oct. 30, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa - When it comes to campus safety, Michael Simmons, Slippery Rock University's police chief, is proud of the University's record. He should be. SRU has been listed among the "Top 50 Safest Campuses in America."

But Simmons is also quick to point out achieving and maintaining that status takes diligence, planning and the cooperation of everyone at the University.

"The safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors is a high priority that is taken very seriously by the University. We are continuously evaluating everything we do to strengthen and improve safety and security and that includes creating a culture where there is mutual support, caring and caution by all members of the University community," he said.

The University's first line of defense is its 24/7 Police Department staffed by 13 uniformed, police officers commissioned by the Governor of Pennsylvania and who have full police powers including, but not limited to, the authority to arrest and issue citations. Officers are armed.

All commissioned officers, Simmons said, have completed municipal police training and are required to complete mandatory update training as well as attend special training seminars. They are recertified, as required, in first aid and CPR, hazardous materials, blood-borne pathogens, the use of Tasers, and OC (pepper) spray. The officers must qualify with their firearms and auxiliary weapons each year.

"The Slippery Rock University Police Department mission is to provide a safe campus community in which to live, work and learn," said Windy Stafford, assistant police chief and parking manager. "Our goal as a department is to constantly strive to provide excellent services, reduce crime and to seek ways to affirmatively promote and preserve partnerships with the community."

SRU utilizes a multi-channel approach to campus safety. In addition to the police, it sponsors a 24/7 escort service; has installed 200 "call for help" boxes in campus buildings, which have direct lines to the police; has connected 23 "E" blue-light safety stations throughout campus; employs an emergency text messaging system; uses an integrated security camera system and promotes a variety of training workshops for students, faculty and staff. The police even scan social media for troubling information on or near campus.

"Unfortunately," Simmons said, "college campuses are not immune to destructive behaviors or violence. Prevention and training are the best ways to combat campus crime and we work strategically to educate the campus that safety is a shared responsibility. Everyone is needed to keep campus safe."

Police routinely partner with campus offices and state and local police agencies to provide training. In addition to a variety of personal safety classes, an "Adopt a Hall" program sends officers into the residence halls on a regular basis so that students and officers have an opportunity to connect and get to know one another better. Officers also frequently visit academic buildings to build trust and awareness.

Students say the all-hands-on deck approach to safety makes them feel secure and they have confidence in the police. A recent student survey showed students overwhelmingly felt safe on campus.

Simmons said the University is a leader in employing safety strategies. In 2010, SRU was the first public university to install the Metis Secure Solutions emergency notification system in all 15 of its academic buildings.

The 200 devices feature two-way "Call for Help" boxes connecting callers to police headquarters. In an emergency, a user pushes a button to automatically send a call for help to police. Police can instantly isolate the location of the call on a computer and send an officer to an exact location. The boxes can also be used to push out messages to the building occupants.

"In an emergency we can communicate with a floor or the entire building to provide specific instructions as to what we want occupants to do, such as evacuate or stay in place," Simmons said.

The University was one of the first State System schools to employ e2Campus, an emergency text alert system that sends messages directly to a subscriber's cell phone, email, wireless PDA, as well as RSS feeds, personalized web pages from Google, My Yahoo and AOL, and SRU's homepage. Blue light safety stations, which enable students to call for help, are located across campus.

A 24/7 police escort service provides safe passage for students, staff, faulty or visitors to SRU from one area of the campus to another. The escort service, which is restricted to the confines of the University's primary jurisdiction, may be provided by a police officer, security officer or student security.

Police monitor campus with security cameras and have the technology to lock down academic buildings in the event of an emergency. There are secret duress alarms in campus locations, and all residence hall rooms require a swipe key to enter a room. Residence hall front desk attendants and electronic door locks for the hall main entrances provide added security.

In keeping with the collective approach to safety, the University has launched programs aimed at defusing conflict. SRU offers Student Intervention Services and has organized a Behavioral Intervention Team. These programs connect staff with students who need support and intervene in crisis situations.

"The Behavioral Intervention Team acts to address the needs of students who are at the highest level of crisis in that they present a danger to themselves, others or the community," said Karla Fonner, coordinator of Student Intervention Services.

SRU's prevention efforts also include "Step UP!" This is an interactive program facilitated by SRU students who educate peers to be proactive in helping others.

The University is required to publish an Annual Security and Fire Safety Report that documents its safety policies and report all crime statistics. "We invite everyone to review how we are doing and to help identify any ways we can improve," Simmons said. The report can be found at: http://www.sru.edu/Documents/life-at-sru/safety/police/report_clery_2013_ASR.pdf