Straight talk about campus crime
Police chief says TU is state's safest public campus
In his talks to students’ parents, Col. Bernard Gerst involves moms and dads in a game he calls “as long as.” But it’s really a lesson about the need to take personal responsibility.
“Is a lawnmower safe?” Gerst asks, and participants nod and agree that it is, “as long as you’re careful.” Ditto for hair dryers and gas ranges.
By the time TU’s police chief and director of public safety gets to “Is our campus safe?,” the crowd has gotten the message: Being careful is a big part of being safe, whether you're operating a machine or studying on a university campus.
While acknowledging the TU Police Department’s duty to protect the campus, Gerst says no law-enforcement entity should be looked upon as the sole tool with which to control crime. “Towson University is generally safer than the surrounding areas,” he says, “but faculty, staff, students and visitors shouldn’t forget about crime prevention the moment they set foot here.”
Gerst says an increase in off-campus street robberies, plus this month's stranger-related robbery on campus, has led some to question whether TU has become a more threatening place. “I urge people to keep things in perspective,” he says. “Burglaries, thefts and destruction of property remain the most frequently reported campus crimes—TU is not experiencing the problems seen in the Towson precinct or in the Baltimore metropolitan region.”
In fact, Gerst says TU ranks lowest among Maryland’s public campuses in the number of violent crimes per 1,000 students according to the 2005 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Report Comparisons.
But the TUPD isn’t letting down its guard, he adds. The department continues to hone its internal systems to ensure that officers know on a daily basis about every report filed and can review data for trends. TUPD staff also meet regularly with faculty, staff and students and offer a variety of crime-prevention programs throughout the calendar year.
Gerst says the information links between the TUPD and the Baltimore County Police Department have improved tremendously in the past three years. “When the county crime analysts send reports to their command staff, I get exactly the same information,” he says.
Gerst says he’s asking people to take a longer view, bear in mind that crime fluctuates and that it has, in fact, decreased over the last decade. He's also asking members of the campus community to help the police do their job by taking responsibility for their own property and personal safety.
“Keeping the campus safe—and clean, pretty and happy—is everybody’s job,” he says.
Story by Jan Lucas/Photo by Kanji Takeno
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