In the minds of students, parents and faculty members, whatever events transpire during the first two weeks of the semester set the tone for the rest of the year.
And every year, crimes happen. There are the routine drug and alcohol busts, noise violations and theft. And then there’s the armed robberies and sexual assaults.
Despite the best efforts of the Richmond and VCU Police departments, including additional patrols, increased visibility and the launching of a phone app, the influx of thousands of new and returning students to the Richmond area always seems to correspond with more crime. The end of August, without fail, brings a string of crimes that, even momentarily, catches everyone off guard.
Just as police officers have a plethora of technologies and skills ready to deploy, so do criminals. They’re becoming more efficient, doing research on the value of particular items, like textbooks, before stealing them and striking unsuspecting victims in new ways. That is the nature of balance and, on some level, I’m fine with it.
Crime is a known unknown, bound to occur despite our best efforts to prevent it.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take smart, effective measures, but it also means we shouldn’t alter our lifestyles. Take advantage of the safety features granted to you by VCU and use common sense, but don’t let fear of what is essentially inevitable prevent you from exercising your rights as an individual.
Keep in mind that crime is, overall, declining; the national murder rate is 3.8 percent, a hundred-year low, according to a Mother Jones article from earlier this year. Major crimes committed with a firearm has dropped about 5 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to Virginia State Police data.
While the city of Richmond does have the highest homicide rate (2.8 percent) in Virginia, also recognize that we have a great lack of adequate social support. County Health Rankings, a health program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reports that only 24 percent of the adult population in Richmond receives the social or emotional support they feel they need.
If we’re going to take great leaps in order to address an annual occurrence of crime, we also ought to make a similar effort in tackling socioeconomic factors within our environment.
Although it’s the hot issue for local news syndicates to report on, crime within the city shouldn’t be our main concern. The general health and socioeconomic conditions that residents in our communities live in are a major factor that often gets underpinned by the discussion of crime. An increase in funding and resources toward rehabilitation, social and after school programs that target teenagers would be a positive and effective manner for the city to address crime.
VCU has made an extraordinary effort to target, limit and supplement both the MCV and Monroe Park campuses and the respective surrounding areas. Our duty, as citizens and students, is to take advantage of what is being provided to us, be accountable for our individual actions and recognize that our college experience may be atypical because we live in a real world environment.
This is not, nor should we dream it to be, a police state, with curfews or checkpoints or mandatory searches.
At VCU, we have a particularly unique freedom; we have the freedom to be at risk, but in the safest way possible. This city, coupled with this university, is the best training ground for students who want to live in a big city after college.
Students are given an ample amount of freedom to be independent adults with full-time jobs and both public and private forms of transportation, but also ample of resources to assure their success and safety in those ventures.
Should anything happen, there’s over 300 ERTZ (Emergency Response Telephone system) boxes available, an app and good-old 911.
Take comfort in knowing those resources are available and don’t be frightened by our city.