Campus crime prompts town hall, resource awareness

Canela López, Associate News Editor

In light of the recent armed robbery committed in the heart of Tulane’s campus, some students have begun questioning their safety. Tulane University Police Department, in conjunction with the Undergraduate Student Government, held a town hall meeting Oct. 20 in Joseph Merrick Jones Hall to try and provide answers to these questions.

Students and community members alike posed questions about the future of security on campus and shared experiences with TUPD and New Orleans Police Department. TUPD Superintendent Jon Barnwell answered questions and gave statements from TUPD to the student body.

Barnwell said increased TUPD officer visibility through extra patrols and supplementing TUPD with Landmark Security guards are the main strategies to increase security, along with adding more lighting in central parts of the Uptown campus.

Installing cameras into emergency blue lights and updating the entire closed-circuit television security camera system are other ideas in the ongoing discussion.

“We’re currently reviewing our access control system over CCTV over all of our campuses and we’re currently looking over how we can better integrate those to become a robust fully-functioning security management system in the long run,” Barnwell said.

Junior Alex Williams said that she feels the increase of security is less than genuine on the university’s part.

“[The Landmark Security guards are] either 18-year-olds or like 80,” Williams said. “It just strikes me as a very shallow attempt of the university being like ‘Oh, hey look, we’re actually taking steps to have more security on campus. But in the event of something happening, I don’t feel like I would be protected by what’s currently in place.”

For students who live off campus, which is the majority of undergraduate upperclassmen and graduate students, walking from campus to their homes at night safely is an area of concern.

Barnwell cited TapRide and Rave Guardian as the main resources that help to keep students safe on that 15-minute walk home.

Rave Guardian is an app available to students that allows them to alert family members and local authorities in the case of an emergency. It comes equipped with a panic button, a safety timer that alerts select individuals if a student doesn’t make it to a destination within a certain amount of time and a safety profile containing the student’s medical information. The app is in use on various college campuses nationwide.

The TapRide Gold Zone is a shuttle service provided by the university that runs from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day of the week. Students can download the app to their phones and request shuttle rides to a residence within a mile radius of campus. Usage totalled at 34,887 taps in 2014 alone, according to TUPD.

Freshman Haneen Islam feels that TapRide is a viable option for many students, but that the area that TapRide covers may be too limited.

“Increasing options for ensuring safety can only help students,” Islam said. “As for TapRide, it’s a good option to have and I know many students who use it regularly.”

Smartphones have increased the use of TapRide but have lead to a decreased use of the blue light system. Though emergency blue lights have been added to campus and more are planned to be added in the near future, Barnwell said usage has decreased since the advent of smartphones. A total of one incident has been called in via blue lights between fall semester of 2013 and the current semester of 2015.

Safety escorts, on the other hand, have been used frequently by students. TUPD has conducted 630 safety escorts since the beginning of the 2015 fall semester, which is average for this point in the year.

Senior Associated Student Body President Sarah Hostetler said she has reservations about the increased security on campus, saying that the university’s communication efforts about crime could be improved.

“Schools like USC and NYU, they’ve had gun threats, bomb threats and anytime that happens the campus automatically locks down and students are told to stay away, keep safe,” Hostetler said. “At Tulane, all we get is a crime alert maybe the next day, maybe the day after. Students are now having to protect themselves by checking a social media apps like Yik Yak to see if areas are safe.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed the final quote to senior Tara Wilson.