By Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer
As students settle back into campus for the spring semester, the Baylor Police Department and Baylor Department of Public Safety offer tips for the community to stay safe both on and off campus.
BUPD Assistant Chief DJ Rodman said the most important practice for students to stay safe is to lock their doors, placing an emphasis on the BUPD’s “Hide It, Lock It, Take It” anti-burglary program.
“We try to keep it simple. You’ll see it in the parking garages or anywhere you park on campus: the Hide, Lock, Take,” Rodman said. “The biggest thing that students can do to keep themselves safe, to keep their personal property safe, is to lock their doors. Whether it be for apartments, for their residence halls, or for their vehicles.”
Rodman also said students should make an effort to ensure that their valuables are left out of sight to avoid presenting an opportunity for criminals.
“When you’re leaving an area, take your valuable possessions with you,” Rodman said. “Don’t leave a bag or a laptop that would be sitting in a seat within a vehicle, in a window of an apartment complex. It’s always important to make sure that those are out of sight.”
Granbury junior Morgan Garner said she doesn’t doubt her safety on campus, but after viewing an attempted robbery of her off-campus apartment over the summer, her perspective has changed and she has become more aware of her surroundings.
“On my surveillance camera, the guy was trying to open the doors and the windows,” Garner said. “There were just scary experiences over the summer which I didn’t recognize before. I’ve felt safe off campus, but there’s some gunshots, sometimes there are fireworks, it’s hard to differentiate everything. I’m comfortable walking to school, but I’m also a little cautious.”
Ebina, Japan, junior Landi Yu also said she feels safe on campus, but is more careful about Waco as a whole.
“At night, I try not to go outside by myself,” Yu said. “Sometimes I’ll receive an Amber Alert. Whenever I receive that message, I feel like I have to be careful.”
When it comes to staying safe off campus, Rodman said he recommends students trust their gut, avoid areas that aren’t well-lit and avoid traveling alone. A great resource for students in particular, according to Rodman, is the BU Campus Guardian app.
“It’s a phone application that they can utilize on or off campus,” Rodman said. “It gives you the Baylor Police Department and all the resources of Baylor Public Safety at the tip of their fingertips.”
The BU Campus Guardian app has a variety of features, but its most notable feature is the safety timer, which gives students the ability to choose their friends, family, or even the Baylor Police, to be their ‘guardians.’”
If a student wants to travel from one location to another, they can activate the safety timer, which will then notify their chosen contact in real-time. In addition, if they feel unsafe at any point, they can use the app’s emergency call feature to be instantly connected to BUPD. The Baylor Police dispatch center also transmits the student’s exact GPS location to responding officers.
The app also allows students to anonymously text Baylor Police should they notice anything suspicious, provides a directory of phone lines for health and safety services on campus, a content directory for other Department of Public Safety resources and the ability to call 911.
Rodman also said BUPD and the Department of Public Safety also receive help from law enforcement partners beyond campus.
“We have a tremendous relationship with our partners in this area,” Rodman said. “We’re talking the Waco Police Department, the Sheriff’s office, our state partners, our federal partners. Because of that, we know that the Waco Police are patrolling in that area. If they are aware of something, they notify us, and we notify them.”
Mark Childers, associate vice president for public safety, said the Department of Public Safety is committed to protecting and serving the Baylor community.
“This isn’t a retirement job for us. This is a 24/7, strong forward lean,” Childers said. “We’re switched on all the time. There’s never a time where we’re not assessing or re-assessing current security platforms or programs.”
Childers also said students should trust their intuition, and the Department of Public Safety is committed to cultivating a strong level of trust between the community and law enforcement.
“The Department of Public Safety can do a lot, but we need the partnership of the community to help us. If you see something, say something,” Childers said. “If something doesn’t look right or feel right, call. I’d rather you be wrong and call.”