Colleges Ramp Up Security Amid Increased Crime, Threats

At one Philadelphia college, a small group of parents hired private security to patrol the campus.

Colleges Ramp Up Security Amid Increased Crime, Threats

(Photo: Hepta, Adobe Stock)

Increased crime and violence spilling into K-12 schools has been a growing concern as students return to in-person learning, but college campuses are experiencing an uptick as well.

At least seven New York University (NYU) students were assaulted last month, prompting the school’s campus safety department to make significant security improvements, reports NYU News. The department will install more security cameras east of Washington Square Park, add lighting to the scaffolding of university buildings, and increase police presence around campus buildings, according to campus safety head Fountain Walker.

The announcement was made after the New York City Police Department said a man assaulted seven Asian women in two hours throughout the East Village, Gramercy Park, Nolita, and Midtown on Feb. 27. The suspect, 28-year-old Steven Zajonc, was arrested and has been charged with seven counts of hate crime assault and hate crime attempted assault, in addition to seven counts of aggravated harassment and harassment.

Between Feb. 7 and Feb. 15, four students were attacked by a passerby on NYU’s Washington Square campus. Two of those victims claimed campus safety mishandled the reporting of their incidents. Two other students, who were assaulted between Feb. 2 and Feb. 14, also voiced anger over the department’s alleged inadequate response. Another student was struck while walking on West Fourth Street on Feb. 25.

Walker said most — if not all — of the incidents were connected, and that the department is assuming anti-Asian violence played a role in the assaults as three of the victims are Asian. Walker said NYPD’s Asian Hate Crimes Task Force has been notified and that officers will respond to similar incidents by flagging student reports. He said the department is also reviewing its alert system to more quickly notify the NYU community.

In Milwaukee, the city’s crime spike is leaking onto the Marquette University campus. Safety alerts have been sent to students nearly every week since November, according to WISN.

“(I) try not to go outside if I don’t have to,” said Kobe Robinson, a Marquette student. “I’m not gonna be going on a walk at 9 p.m.”

In February, Marquette President Mike Lovell announced safety and security initiatives the school would undertake, including launching a President’s Task Force on Community Safety, hiring additional MUPD officers, providing more campus shuttle services, implementing additional access control measures, and convening a meeting with city and community leaders.

Last week, the task force held its inaugural meeting to address safety and security concerns. During the meeting, Marquette Police Chief Edith Hudson announced the formation of five key workgroups to facilitate 30-day, 60-day and long-term plan development, according to Marquette Today.

The five workgroups and their responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Safety Measures – Institutional: Address campus policies and physical elements, such as building access and environmental design.
  2. Safety Measures – Individual: Assess education, training, culture and campus safety programs for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
  3. Community Partnership: Consider how Marquette will collaborate with other organizations to increase safety.
  4. Communications: Review the strategies, tools and processes for communicating to students, employees, parents, prospective students and media.
  5. Resources: Assess the staffing, technology, or equipment needed to support and implement the task force recommendations.

Ohio State University added more security cameras to two of its parking garages after an increase in crime, including thefts and damaged cars. Since the start of 2022, six crimes have been reported in the Ohio Union North and South parking garages, WBNS reports.

University officials said it is prioritizing those two garages based on recent trends but will continue to review whether other garages will need more cameras. Thirty-eight crimes have been reported across all garages since the new year. In one garage, twelve cars were damaged within a three-day period in February.

Also in February, a man walked into the Ohio Stadium West parking lot and found that his car was stolen. While on the phone with the police, he was struck by his stolen vehicle.

Officials said the school has also increased police and security patrols in parking lots and garages as well as other parts of campus.

Similar to parents in Huntersville, N.C., who are volunteering to patrol the halls of Hopewell High School, a small group of parents with children who attend Temple University in Philadelphia hired JNP Protection Services to patrol the campus by car and by foot five days a week through the end of the semester, reports CBS Local. If there is an issue, the agency contacts Temple Police.

One of the parents, Jennifer Hedberg, said fears regarding her son’s safety increased following the death of Sam Collington, a Temple student who was shot and killed near the campus last year. She acknowledged that the school is currently hiring more officers but that she didn’t want to wait.

“They are hiring, they’re vetting, they’re training these new candidates, but we have the need right now,” she said.

Threats of violence have also plagued many colleges, particularly Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In just one day in January, at least seven HBCUs received bomb threats.

In February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, warning that “mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation.”

The soft targets specifically mentioned include HBCUs and other institutions of higher education. DHS urged potential soft targets to be prepared for emergencies and remain aware of circumstances that could increase their risk.

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family.

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