Students should be informed on how to stay safe with the increased number of criminal acts throughout Mount Pleasant,.
Central Michigan University Police Chief Bill Yeagley said he believes knowledge is power.
“I’m totally convinced after 35 years in the police force that the No. 1 thing that will keep people safe is information,” he said.
To ensure students are kept up to date on what is happening, CMU’s emergency notification system, Central Alert, notifies students of emergencies ranging from threats to violence to severe weather.
The Clery Act, signed in 1990 and enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.
It is through this act that CMU’s crisis response team determines what and when to inform students through Central Alert.
“Anything that may put people in physical danger shall be immediately shared with the entire university campus,” Yeagley said. “Sometimes people may say, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ We do want to keep our community safe, but we have to do it in a fashion outlined by this act.”
Although Yeagley said some people might feel less safe getting an alert at midnight or 1 a.m. rather than reading about an incident in the newspaper the next day, Director of Sexual Aggression Services Stephen Thompson said informing people is important so they can choose how to deal with a situation.
“It raises people’s anxiety, but is that a bad thing? I’d rather know about it and then be given a choice,” he said. “I’m going to do a few things to reduce my likelihood. I think the university is doing a really good job.”
By going online and entering a phone number, students can sign up for phone calls or text messages, ensuring they have the latest emergency news.
“Sign up for it. We encourage people to,” Yeagley said.
Safety in numbers
Following the Jan. 16 abduction of a Grand Rapids senior outside of the Student Activity Center, students are increasingly taking advantage of Safe Rides.
The program has been doubled this semester, and Yeagley said they continue to evaluate it on a daily basis to ensure it meets student demand, which continues to rise.
“We had a drastic increase (following the abduction), and now it’s going up at a slower rate,” he said. “Each week, we set new numbers for our Safe Rides program.”
On top of that, Thompson said keeping the campus safe depends on the work of everyone.
“In the end, what will hurt the most is the silence of our friends,” Thompson said. “We’re pushing to get people to look out for each other.”
By sticking together, Thompson said people have a better chance of remaining safe, and bystanders speaking out will help reduce crimes.
“By myself, I am more vulnerable than when I’m with someone,” he said. “Robbery, mugging, sex crimes, it’s not gender specific. Right now, it’s something we all have to think of.”
Yeagley said the police department has put on more safety presentations this semester than ever before.
However, one course students will not be able to get on campus is a self-defense program.
Thompson said although Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates has received two-dozen requests for self-defense programs, after teaching seminars in the 1970s, he does not feel they help.
“I understand it, but the reality is the one-hour program is teaching someone how to neutralize an aggressor with nothing more than luck,” he said.
Thompson said self-defense classes will not likely help considering perpetrators are bigger and stronger than victims and could also be carrying a weapon.
“They’re great intentions, but there are 21 different profiles of sexual predators,” he said. “It will work against a few, but many will escalate.”
Rather than teaching self-defense, Thompson prefers teaching people who predators are, how they operate and what people can do against them.