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Safety First

April 13, 2004

Arthur Nead
Phone: (504) 865-5714

anead@tulane.edu

Do you feel safe on campus? If you do, why, and if you don't, what can the university do to make you feel more secure?

safetyThese are a few of the questions that campus police officers will be asking students, faculty and staff during a campuswide survey to be started in the near future, according to Capt. Reid Noble, commander of the Department of Public Safety's Crime Prevention and Victim Resources unit.

The survey is designed to help Noble and her colleagues focus their crime-prevention efforts and is part of a campaign to inform people about the services and resources offered by the department.

"There are so many things the department offers to the campus community, and we're trying to get the word out," says Noble.

One responsibility of the crime prevention unit is educating incoming freshmen about crime and safety hazards. Most Tulane freshmen are away from home for the first time, and many are uncertain about how to conduct themselves in their new and unfamiliar environment.

"Students shouldn't live in a state of constant fear," says Noble, "but they do have to learn to be cautious and build that caution into their daily routines."

Up to now, students first encountered these cautionary ideas during freshman orientation. They attend talks, skits and other programs designed to familiarize them with the sometimes scary facts of life in a metropolitan area, with codes of conduct they should follow and to let them know what resources are available to students who do get into trouble. Noble and her staff provide programs that have been central to orientation.

In addition, once the year gets under way, resident assistants organize follow-up programs featuring public-safety personnel as well as other presenters.

"One problem with communicating to students has been apathy," says Noble. "We can't guarantee who will show up for these programs." Students are hard to convince because they believe they are invincible, according to Noble. "They think bad things won't happen to them," she says, "and they don't get upset until something happens to them or to a friend. That's just human nature."

Noble has met with university housing area directors for brainstorming sessions on how to capture student attention, and a number of planned initiatives are the result. A compact disc with information about crime prevention strategies and victim resource services will be included in the information packets sent to freshmen before their arrival at Tulane.

"Hopefully, this will encourage parental involvement before the students arrive here," says Noble. Crime alerts, those timely notices posted around campus that give information about recent crimes on campus or near Tulane, are going to be more widely distributed to keep students alert to possible hazards.

And to sharpen awareness of crime and safety issues throughout the university, Noble is improving the public safety website, http://www.tulane.edu/~dps, which offers a wealth of features and information. One new feature of the site is a questionnaire for people who have been helped by public safety staff.

The form will generate feedback that will be used to praise officers for jobs well-done and improve the department's services where necessary. In compliance with federal law, the website publishes crime statistics that keep the campus community up-to-date on any crimes that have occurred. Emergency phone numbers are listed, and the university's drug and alcohol policy is posted.

The site also contains educational programs that public-safety trained personnel can present to student, employee or public groups on request. These include "Protect Your Property: Operation ID," "Women Defending Themselves: Rape Aggression Defense" and "Living in the Big Easy: Crime Prevention 101."

Reducing theft, the most common type of crime on campus, is a high priority for public safety. "Sad to say," says Noble, "most of it is the result of students propping security gates open, leaving dorm rooms unlocked, leaving bicycles unsecured and personal property, such as laptop computers, unattended."

One program that could take a bite out of campus crime is the Silent Witness program that allows anonymous reporting of crime information. A centerpiece of the website redesign that is still in the planning stages, according to Noble, is a contest with prizes. The once-a-semester contest will feature three questions about public-safety programs or campus regulations.

Students will have to go to the website and navigate through it to find the answers. In the event of ties, the Division of Student Affairs will hold a drawing to pick the winner. "The idea is to have some fun and educate at the same time," Noble says.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu