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Off-campus security must be addressed

Annie Milbourn

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The subject “UAPD Campus Safety Advisory” seems to always flash across my phone as I read my e-mail notifications. At this point, these e-mails don’t even phase me anymore. How did it get to this point of frequency?

Some of what these e-mails say is relatively harmless. Listed on the e-mails are some “safety considerations” that students are encouraged to consider. Be mindful and careful of any valuables you may carry, they say. Yet telling students to not carry “valuables” will not stop them from potentially getting caught in a harmful situation. The perpetrator most likely has no clue what someone is carrying. 

They also remind us to be mindful of our surroundings. I am mindful of my surroundings every day I walk home, even in broad daylight. And at night, I am obviously even more careful. But once again, that “advice” is not going to keep me from a potentially harmful situation.

Finally, they say to give the perpetrator what they ask for because your safety is more important. And just like that, those three things are guaranteed to keep us safe, right?

Wrong. I understand that these things are going to happen, especially on weekends with large crowds in town for home football games. But these incidences have happened on any given night of the week. All it really takes is reading one of those e-mails to put a troubled feeling in your stomach.  

We need to make the surrounding areas of campus safer, and there are two simple ways to start that. First of all, there should be an increase in patrol cars around campus. As college students, we sometimes have a love-hate relationship with law enforcement. Nobody likes them when they bust a party, but everyone appreciates them when they help us out in times of need. Law enforcement should be practically ubiquitous in the areas near campus where these robberies so often happen. 

Another simple solution would be to increase street lights. I have heard numerous stories of crime happening in areas that aren’t well-lit. And this isn’t just up to the city of Tuscaloosa, it’s also up to developers and landlords in charge of off-campus properties. A bright area where all nefarious activity can be seen is likely to reduce crime. 

Living in Tutwiler my freshman year, I felt extremely safe living behind multiple entrances with act card access, people at the front desk 24/7 and even a UAPD officer usually sitting in the lobby. When you live on campus, you don’t venture off campus much by foot. So by my sophomore year, when I moved off campus, I was in for a very different experience. 

I realized I completely took for granted how much safer it was to live in a dorm. While I understand that living off campus means that we are essentially under the control of ourselves and the locks that our landlords provide us, it does not mean we should be forgotten about.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have the perfect concrete plan to solve all the armed robberies or break-ins on or off campus. Increased police patrol and better-lit streets would be a great start, and I realize a lot of that is up to the city of Tuscaloosa. But I am a student who is affected by these things that happen on campus. And that alone gives me a right to express my concerns. 

I know I’m not alone in sometimes feeling uneasy about living off campus. Maybe students aren’t expressing enough concern, or maybe the city just doesn’t have enough resources. Once again, I’m not an expert in public safety. But I am a student at this university. And my hope is that we can increase the safety off campus so nobody has to open their inboxes to one of those dreaded e-mails. 

Annie Milbourn is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column runs biweekly. 

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Off-campus security must be addressed