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“See something, say something” – How to stay safe on campus
If students feel unsafe walking back to their dorms at night, are put in an uncomfortable situation, or just need an escort, SEMO Department of Public Safety (DPS) has safety tips for them. September is National Emergency Preparedness month and for students, staying safe on campus is a priority.
Director of DPS Beth Glaus said while walking alone on campus, students are encouraged to use emergency phones scattered around if they are in an uncomfortable situation. The emergency poles are tall, gray rectangles with “EMERGENCY” written on each side.
Students can continue on their way after pressing the button on the emergency phone. When pressed, DPS is alerted with an “emergency call” and asks the student about the emergency. If pressed without talking, a DPS officer then might search the area, or if several emergency phone buttons are pressed, an officer will follow the student to ensure their safety.
Glaus said students who feel unsafe walking back to their dorms can use the campus shuttles, and after the shuttles stop running at midnight, students can call a DPS officer using the number on their website to escort them.
“We want to make sure that extra eyes are watching them as they reach their dorms. We encourage that escort,” Glaus said.
According to the SEMO DPS website, an officer’s response time to a call or emergency phone is usually less than three minutes. There are 86 emergency call buttons and over 400 cameras on campus for students’ safety.
DPS has 15 officers, many who have trained the required 490 hours at the Law Enforcement Academy. After their required training, DPS officers obtain their licenses through the State Department of Public Safety, and must go through yearly educational training. Training includes firearm training and crisis intervention.
Glaus said students must always be aware of their surroundings while walking, and if they notice anything odd or a situation that makes them uncomfortable, they should immediately report to DPS. This includes environmental hazards.
“As it gets darker in the evening and you see lights that aren't functioning, call us. It’s a good way to get it on record and the workers can replace it. If you see overgrown bushes that provide too many shadows or hide the ability of light to reach certain places, let us know. We're all working together for the same goal. If you see something, say something,” Glaus said.
Mace or pepper spray are useful when walking alone, but students should learn in advance how to use them correctly.
Glaus said when students are in an emergency or unsafe situation, they should call DPS first but also be ready to describe the perpetrator or situation for an officer
“When we talk about crime and the immediacy of reporting it, it's always important to contact us first,” Glaus said. She said that nothing is more frustrating than getting a good description about a perpetrator or event later on in the week when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Glaus recommends the apps FollowMee or Everbridge. Through Everbridge, students can log in to their SEMO accounts and send DPS pictures or descriptions of an unsafe situation. DPS alerts students about the emergency through the app.
Glaus said to ensure students’ safety, they must never get into or go near a stranger’s vehicle, even if it is to help with something. Glaus said safety is about personal awareness and is a good goal to have.
“I don't expect somebody to come by and tell me to lock my doors. I know to lock my doors. If I see a place that's not well lit or an overgrown brush where people could be hiding, I avoid that [area]. That's not being a victim. That's being in control, empowered and aware,” Glaus said.
For immediate emergencies, students may call DPS at (573) 651-2911 or list the number as an emergency contact.