Rising Campus Crime Sparks Convo of Safety Among Students


Burglary numbers are over half of 2010’s numbers in the Fall semester alone
By Rebecca Hoart

Despite an increase in crime, many UNF students report that they feel safe on campus.

University-sponsored services help students be proactive about their safety; however, this well-intentioned intervention may create a false sense of security.

Erica Egnor, a UNF psychology senior, feared for her safety whe she lived at Osprey Cove. Lighting was frequently broken, making the complex seem dark and creepy in the evenings, and residents roamed the premises at all hours of the night.

“Once, some unknown person banged on my door at 3 a.m. and scared me to death,” she said.

Egnor, who no longer lives on campus, feels equally unsafe walking to Lot 14 after dark.

“That pathway is scary,” she said. “You can’t see who is walking towards you in the dark.”

The most common crime at UNF is burglary. Violent and sexually motivated crimes are rarely reported to the campus police department; however, a safety alert was issued Oct. 22, notifying students to be aware of a man in a gold or tan four-door car who solicited a female student.

Recent campus events have students talking about safety issues with campus police protection.

UPD officers used Tasers on three men Sept. 26 in an escalating confrontation over IDs.

Some UNF students and faculty have cited the controversial “guns-in-schools” campaign as a potential solution.

Dr. Daniel Pontzer, a UNF criminal justice professor, worked at Southern Utah University, where everyone was allowed to carry a gun and most did.

“A mass shooting like Virginia Tech would have gone nowhere,” Pontzer said.

He said he felt very safe on the Utah campus.

Additionally, a student filed a lawsuit against UNF Oct. 3, claiming the right to carry a gun in her car on campus.

Not everyone agrees with the idea of carrying guns on campus.

“What do you need a gun on campus for?” asked Brad Haugabrook, a UNF public relations senior.

While the open-carry debate is pending as a potential solution, UNF’s security department has taken charge of campus safety.

UNF offers a Safety Ranger program that provides officer escorts to and from campus parking lots every weekday until 10 p.m. Students can call 904-620-2800 or use any Emergency Code Blue phone to ask for an escort, said Mark Richardson, assistant chief of police.

The phones are located along routes that recieve high volumes of foot traffic. Students in need of assistance can simply push a button, and they will instantly be connected with the police dispatcher over a speaker system.

Natalie Semaskor, a UNF business administration student, likes knowing the phones are available. She said walking to the Osprey Fountains at night scares her. Knowing that security is readily accessible provides reassurance to nighttime travellers.

UNF also uses a campus wide alert system via phone call, so that students are kept in the loop about dangers occurring at the school even when they are not on campus.

The Code Red Alert System is used to contact individual students in the event of a campus emergency such as a tornado, fire, or in the case of an active shooter, said Debra LeGros, administrative assistant of administration and finance. The system is tested every fall and spring term, most recently Sept. 23. Students are contacted by phone — the number 999-911-9999 appears in the caller ID, she said.

To deal with campus residents’ safety issues, UPD offers a campus safety class to students. A PowerPoint presentation given by the resident life officer covers safety issues such as dating, getting around and locking a room safely, Richardson said.

Talks concerning campus safety often lead to discussion of tragedies such as Virginia Tech and what can be done to prevent such occurrences.

Brooks Jones, a UNF public relations major, said he feels safe but remains cautious in the wake of tragedies at other schools around the country.

While many students interviewed felt afraid at night, not all are uncomfortable traversing the campus after dark.

“Of course I’m safe. I’m a black man,” said Thomas Colbert, a UNF public relations senior.

Regardless of gender, security is a legitimate concern to the UNF student body. Basic precautions, such as walking in pairs of groups after dark, walking only in well-lighted areas, and making use of the various safety programs provided by the campus security department can prevent a potential disaster.