Freshmen and transfer students may be new to the busy city environment of VCU, but many students and parents feel well prepared for some of the risks of living on an open campus.
Orientation seminars by the VCU Police Department and increasing safety measures on campus are helping to reassure some parents despite the increase in crimes around the core campus last year.
“The fact that VCU is in an urban environment troubled me for just a moment,” said freshman parent Curtis Weisman. “But the presentation that (chief John Venuti) presented to us earlier reassured me of my daughter’s safety.”
VCU PD recently announced several new strategies for keeping the campus safe this fall, including a security mobile app called Live-Safe, increasing surveillance on the core campus, and altering shift times and locations for officers. Live-Safe will allow students to send messages, photos or videos to VCU PD and alerts the department of their location in an emergency.
Freshman and transfer students enrolled in the UNIV 101 class this semester will also be participating in crime prevention modules as part of their regular class work. About 58 percent of the freshman class will take UNIV 101.
Police chief John Venuti said the department is making some of these changes using the latest results of the spring student perception of safety survey.
“We have an all out community policing philosophy here at VCU and that means my staff, police, security, we do everything with maximum effort and determination,” Venuti said. “We get a lot of great information from those surveys that really guide our fast and flexible approach in how we deploy our officers.”
The survey showed 94.6 percent of students, faculty and staff felt safe or very safe on campus, Venuti said.
The survey also showed parking decks and garages remain a top safety concern to students and staff, although zero incidences of violence were reported to VCU PD last year, Venuti said. With 92 sworn officers on the police force, Venuti hopes to minimize what he calls a perception issue of safety on campus by increasing patrols between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
“It’s a balance,” Venuti said. “We know the students don’t want a police state down here so it’s a balance of creating a high level of visibility, providing students faculty and staff with the things they need on a regular basis.”