Top University of Richmond officials met for a 2.5-hour walk around the campus during the night of Oct. 20 to investigate areas in need of safety improvements.
Attendees of the "Walk Toward Safety" included: Howard Norton, chief of police; Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College; Steve Bisese, vice president for student development; Ali Amaral, president of the Westhampton College Government Association; Suren Daryanani, president of the Richmond College Student Government Association; and University of Richmond Police Department officers, among others.
"This is the first time we've done something like this," Norton said. "We're dismissing the barriers between the students and the police and we're working together to make a safer campus."
The walking police officers ranged from those who had been working with the university for nearly three decades, to one who joined the university police force last week.
A small number of student leaders were also invited to participate in the walk to help officers examine on-campus areas from as many perspectives as possible, Norton said.
The inaugural gathering was a response to the high number of on-campus crimes that have been reported since the beginning of the fall semester.
A summary of some of the reported crimes is as follows: ten cases of simple and aggravated assault, where some students reported being knocked unconscious, robbed, verbally threatened and hospitalized; two cases of breaking-and-entering, where female students reported being touched by an unidentified male intruder while they slept; sexual assault, where a female reported being raped while walking back to her residence in the University Forest Apartments; and vandalism, where approximately $3,000 in damages were made to 11 students' cars in one night.
University police have been working with Richmond city and Virginia state officials regarding the assaults, Norton said.
University police do not have reason to believe that the unprovoked assaults were related to off-campus, gang-related activities, but the collected information indicates that they were visitor-related crimes, Norton said.
During the walk, the group examined street/path lights in need of new bulbs; parking lot and apartment lights; areas in need of an emergency phone, recognizable by blue lights; and shadowy and/or wooded areas in need of light, among other things.
University police officers routinely monitor these things, but this was the first time a group of students and officials embarked as a group to address these issues.
Among other locations, emergency phones with blue lights will be assembled near the bridge behind the Modlin Center and on the island of Westhampton Lake.
The students in attendance offered valuable safety suggestions and different perspectives based on their first-hand experiences of living on campus for the last few years.
Amaral, for example, informed officers that Crenshaw Field behind Keller Hall is a high-traffic area that students use as a quick route to and from the apartments.
Officials discussed the possibility of assembling lights on the walls of Keller to illuminate this dark, yet well-traveled area.
Randy Baran, a university crime prevention officer, explained how too much light could be as dangerous as not enough light.
The shadows resulting from too much artificial light can obscure figures at night, so there must to be a reasonable balance of light ambiance and darkness, Baran said.
"This really is a good campus," Norton said. "I've been all around the country, and this is one of the few campuses I would send my five daughters.
"We have a few problems, but this is the kind of place where everyone gets together to help out."
Contact staff writer Fred Shaia at email@example.com