Mae Oetjens, Contributing Writer
The VCU Police Department recently released its 2020 annual safety report for the Monroe Park and MCV campuses, as well as areas of Richmond that are close to campus.
The report is required to be conducted and released due to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The information in the report was gathered and released by VCUPD.
The safety report includes statistics on crimes reported on and around VCU’s campus in 2020. The 2020 report saw a dramatic 50% decrease in sexual assaults and robberies. Drug abuse arrests decreased from 131 in 2019 to 39 made in 2020. There was an increase in motor vehicle theft from six arrests in 2019 to 13 in 2020. Arson arrests increased as well, seven made in 2020 compared to one in 2019 and two in 2018.
“The mission of the VCU Police Department (VCUPD) is to provide a safe and secure learning, living and working environment for the students, faculty, staff and visitors to VCU,” VCUPD stated in the report. “This mission is accomplished through the development of various community-based crime prevention strategies and initiatives, in conjunction with traditional law enforcement and progressive community policy practices.”
Senior Savanna Dennis expressed concerns for students of color because of the police presence on campus. Dennis said although the university is primarily white, many students identify as “BIPOC” which means Black, Indigenous and people of color.
“I don’t think that they [VCUPD] are what makes our community safe,” Dennis said. “They [students] feel unsafe because they know these police officers can take any actions against them.”
The report details safety tips and services that are available to students and definitions and breakdowns of various crimes and how many times incidents may have occurred on campus or in “noncampus” areas. “Noncampus” is defined as “a building or property owned or controlled by VCU that is not reasonably contagious to the main campus,” according to the report.
Robyn Diehl McDougle, an associate professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs who studies police-community relationships, said she believes the report is important to VCUPD’s relationship with the students and community.
“The more transparency in understanding the community has about what the police department is doing and the more that they can be a part of that conversation, the more likely trust is to build,” McDougle said.
McDougle said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s start in 2020, many students were not living on campus. Black Lives Matter protests also took place in Richmond, which may have affected numbers seen in the report, McDougle said.
“The rise in violent crime in the Richmond metro area is an increase we’re seeing in urban areas around the country so I am concerned about that,” McDougle said.
The report did not include information regarding the death of VCU student Cody Woodson. Woodson was shot and killed on the 400 block of Gilmer Street on April 5, according to an announcement from Gail Hackett, former provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. The investigation into this case is ongoing, according to the Richmond Police Department.
Senior Aviva Clayman said she believes VCUPD’s presence adds to the gentrification of Richmond instead of helping the community.
“VCU needs to do more to actually train its students on how to safely live in a city, rather than just police presence,” Clayman said.
VCU campus safety services include the Emergency Reporting Telephone System, RamSafe, campus security officers and several units of VCUPD. The Emergency Reporting Telephone System (ERTS) is a way to contact VCUPD on campus. RamSafe is a transportation service provided by VCU that provides free rides around both campuses and runs from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., according to VCU’s department of Parking and Transportation.
To prevent crime for on-campus students, VCUPD suggests always locking doors and windows, being careful who is allowed into private properties and preventing anyone from duplicating keys. For off-campus students, the department suggests rekeying locks after a previous tenant has moved out, installing deadlocks and lighting entrances at night.
The safety report is public and available to be viewed online at VCUPD’s website.