Communicate off-campus safety resources

Off-campus safety has been at the forefront of students’ minds this year. With a jump in crime last spring and the recent violent attack on a graduate student, students have appropriately questioned the safety surrounding their off-campus living quarters.

The University responded to student concerns in establishing the much-needed Campus2Home shuttle—an initiative that shuttles students from campus to their off-campus apartments. This service is long overdue and shows the University’s vested interest in the safety of its off-campus students. Although the University does not have police jurisdiction over these areas, it is still important that the University takes measures to protect students off-campus because we are all part of the Wash. U. community.

With every violent crime that strikes the off-campus community, the subsequent announcements from campus figures and the varied University responses leave students questioning which police force is actually responsible for their safety.

Most Wash. U. students are transient St. Louis residents and are clueless as to who is ultimately responsible for protecting their safety off-campus. For such a small community, we have a lot of different governments watching over us. Off-campus residents choose between areas under the jurisdiction of University City, St. Louis city or Clayton police departments. And yet we all seem to turn to WUPD when something goes awry.

Students’ sense of safety and security would improve if we were aware of how safety and security around us actually worked.

How involved should WUPD be in off-campus life?

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Because University students are scattered around the off-campus neighborhoods in Residential Life housing, Quadrangle apartments and private residences, the University should assume the responsibility of informing students what police department is responsible for their safety and what this means. The different details and jurisdictions of each police department should be explicitly communicated.

For instance, if a student is walking home from the Loop and is mugged, who should he call: WUPD or the U. City police? While the student should call U. City police, many people are under the assumption that when a crime occurs they should call WUPD.

And consequences for underage drinking and noise violations are confusing since one street’s rules may vary drastically from the next. While not a safety concern, this ranks highly on students’ interest levels.

Students should be aware of the fact that one city may have more stringent laws and regulations than another, and the consequences for breaking the rules vary from city to city.

All of this information is publicly available on the various muncipalities and police departments’ Web sites; however, it has not yet been streamlined into one location. The reality is that most students dont’t check these resources and are then left in a hazardous confusion.

The University should issue an all-encompassing pamphlet—or communicate to the students via e-mail—to clearly enumerate what areas lie under what jurisdiction, how certain laws differ from city to city, and when it is appropriate to call on WUPD for specific safety concerns. This is crucial information; in order for students in off-campus housing to feel secure in their residencies, they need to know who is responsible for their safety.

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