ECUnity Forum Addresses Safety
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Discussions about campus safety at East Carolina and the surrounding area continued last month, attracting more than 75 students, faculty, staff and neighbors to the Nov. 12 ECUnity Safety Forum.
The forum was held in order for ECU and community public safety and transit officials to respond to student concerns raised in an April 2007 campus safety survey and the Oct. 1 campus safety walk. Advising people to be alert, said Janice Harris, ECU interim Police Chief and forum panelist, isn’t just lip service. It can pay off.
“It is just not police; we need information from the campus community as a whole,” Harris said. Harris cited two ECU students who had reported two men in a suspicious vehicle on campus in early November.
“As you may have seen on the news, they were wanted in a murder case,” Harris said. Because the students were being alert and aware of their surroundings, Harris said, ECU police officers were able to apprehend and arrest the suspects.
The forum was organized and facilitated by Michelle Lieberman, director of ECU’s Center for Off-Campus and Community Living. Lieberman has been working with members of the ECU Student Safety Committee and the neighborhood association to conduct the survey and to develop forums and public awareness events, such as the pre-Halloween alcohol use awareness event, that would call attention to ECU’s efforts to make campus safe. The April 2007 survey received 3,917 responses from students.
“It has been a useful tool for us to see what the misperceptions are among the students, and to help us identify ways to get the word out about services that we have,” she said.
Greenville Police Chief William Anderson said one of his top priorities when he was named chief was to find ways for downtown Greenville to be safer at night, particularly when the bars close.
“There are people downtown who just want to hang out, and part of our strategy is to keep the crowd moving to make sure everyone is safe,” Anderson said. “But we also do what we can to put the officers in the neighborhoods to get everyone home safe. The criminal activity downtown has been greatly reduced.”
Both ECU and Greenville police offer outreach programs such as a “Ride-Along,” which enables members of the community to accompany a police officer during a patrol shift. Greenville also offers a citizen’s police academy, and ECU police offer self-defense classes for students, faculty and staff. Both chiefs welcomed anyone interested the programs to contact the stations to register.
George Harrell, vice chancellor for campus operations, said that the work orders his department receives that pertain to lighting issues are completed by the next day.
There are 291 video cameras on ECU’s campuses, Chief Harris said, and another 154 cameras are planned to be installed over the next two years. Harris said she’s seen students walking alone at night, and knows they are probably going to continue to do so, no matter what anyone says or does.
“It is your right to have that freedom, but you need to be aware of your surroundings and you need to know that things do happen to students,” she said. “But you can do things to protect yourself. If you do your part, we will work hard to keep you safe also.”
Among those who attended the forum was Pat Dunn, Greenville’s new mayor-elect and professor emeritus, and Karen Stokes, ECU’s new chief of staff.
“The Chancellor is very concerned about this issue and thinks the chiefs have been very proactive and are doing a great job,” Stokes said.