By Taylor Hall and Amy Via
RICHMOND, Va. – The fall semester at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus began with reported crimes near campus. After five students were robbed in two separate incidents, students became more aware of safety. VCU responded by sending an email to all students, stating that VCU police would be increasing patrols.
However, most students still experience times when they don’t feel safe. Elizabeth Murray, a VCU history major, experienced a safety issue earlier this year while walking to her apartment.
“A group of guys on bikes started yelling, well, stopped me and asked me some really degrading questions. And then when I wouldn’t answer them they followed me home,” said Murray.
The individuals did not pursue Murray after she got inside her home. If she had taken advantage of VCU’s security escort service, the situation may have been averted. The service offers to drive students to their cars, classes or homes, on or near campus.
Another safety feature at VCU is the access control reader. This allows entry for VCU students and faculty into designated doors and buildings. The reader “reads” a magnetic strip on VCU ID cards, identifying the user and opening the door.
Officials say awareness is the most useful tool in staying safe on campus. Jim Deford, VCU police corporal, advises students to just use common sense.
“Travel in groups, let people know what’s going on, and stay in touch. And be aware of what’s going on around you, don’t walk down the street with your earbuds in, texting, looking down,” said Deford.
Tiera Gostomski, a VCU criminal justice major, often walks home from work late at night, and has gathered some safety tips of her own.
“Don’t carry lots of money on you. Carry at least a couple forms of ID, maybe in two separate pockets or two separate wallets,” said Gostomski.
VCU police also offer a free ride-along for any students who want to get to know areas around campus.