As dusk approached earlier this semester, members of the University of Richmond community gathered at the UR Police Department before going on a walk around campus.
With the sun setting earlier after the end of Daylight Savings Time, this “safety walk” was one of the ways URPD identifies safety issues, including poorly lit areas around campus, UR Chief of Police Dave McCoy said. While URPD staff also conduct monthly lighting surveys, safety walks give students and community members a greater platform to voice their safety concerns, McCoy said.
“Our students especially are our most important voice because they reside here as well,” McCoy said. “We’re here 24/7, but there’s a lot more students who can give us better information than the few officers working at nights.”
URPD began going on the walks over two decades ago and the last safety walk this year was on Sept. 15. The next will likely take place in spring 2023, McCoy said. The walks happen a few times a semester and take about an hour to complete. URPD then shares a list of items to improve or repair with electricians and University Facilities after, McCoy said.
Facilities have recently been working on several projects to improve lighting, McCoy said. The work includes switching to LED light bulbs across campus; placing a temporary lighting trailer outside Boatwright Memorial Library until a light pole can be installed; and adding lights along the Westhampton Lake path, McCoy said.
In 2021, a URPD meeting with members of the student governments about parking citation fees evolved into discussions about lighting and other campus safety concerns, McCoy said. Since then, representatives from both Westhampton College Government Association and Richmond College Student Government Association have attended the safety walks.
Senior Danny Anderson, an RCSGA class of 2023 senator working with URPD, said lighting is important in students’ perception of campus safety.
“A lot of students complain that the lights are pretty bad in a lot of areas on campus,” Anderson said. “Students have the right to feel safe on campus and the fact that students don’t feel safe walking through campus at night is a real drag on quality of life.”
Senior Olivia Wierum expressed concern about lighting in areas such as the small walking paths near the UR School of Law and the stairs where Wierum fell down between Lora Robins Court and the Westhampton Deanery because she couldn’t see where she was going, she said.
Wierum has not noticed any significant improvements in lighting around campus, and while she was not aware of the safety walks, Wierum suggested that URPD notify students through email or a post in SpiderBytes.
First-year Veronica Wang said she felt safe on campus, but had noticed the need for more lighting along roads.
“I think walking is OK; I just pay more attention at night, but roads need more light because it is dark,” Wang said.
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McCoy acknowledged that lighting remains an issue, but said he’s satisfied with how URPD is addressing the problem.
“I think we’re in a really good place and how to address student concerns as it relates to lighting,” McCoy said. “We’re constantly looking at the future and trying to address the needs as they come up.”
Students are encouraged to share lighting concerns with their student government representatives and employees can forward their concerns to URPD or facilities, McCoy said.
Contact news writer Katie Castellani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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