Following January’s abduction of a student outside the Student Activity Center, Adelce Ferdinandus was afraid to be out alone in the dark of night.
But as the Central Michigan University Police Department has been in full swing since the attack, the 33-year-old graduate student from Indonesia was relieved to see a safer campus for her to complete her studies.
“I was really worried after the incidents,” Ferdinandus said. “I wouldn’t go out after dark. But I’ve seen the police around; they have a good presence. If you’re walking at night in the dark, it’s frightening.”
Ferdinandus, along with other CMU students, hoped that a strong police presence on campus, along with greater visibility from outdoor lighting, could deter more crimes from occurring.
“Putting up more lighting in the parking lot would be great,” she said. “I see (police) patrolling all the time, so I feel quite safe.”
Rachell Weeks, who graduated in 2013, is currently working an internship in the Park Library. The Holland native was worried last year when sporting events left her and her classmates to park in the back of the lots and walk through the darkness to class.
“Last year, the parking lots during basketball games were pretty annoying,” she said. “We had to walk through the dark. They need better lighting in the parking lots, making sure that if students are walking that far, it is well-lit.”
Along with strong lighting and visibility on campus, CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley said collaboration between his and the other four police departments, which serve the campus and outlying community, will ensure that students are safe.
“When incidents do occur, there is a cooperative response,” he said. “We meet regularly. We purposely work toward that, visibility is important.”
Yeagley said his department has assembled a team of CMU police officers, student government officials and facilities workers to head out onto campus at night to address areas that might require better lighting.
And with a camera system providing about 600 eyes on campus, Yeagley is certain CMU is secure.
“When people know that (cameras) are there, they tend not to commit crimes as much,” he said. “There are always things to improve on. Not only do I want to help people be safe, but I want people to feel safe.”
Yeagley said a number of security vehicles were assigned to the back lots during events and said the university utilizes both marked and plain-clothed patrols to prevent crime from occurring.
“After last fall, we know people feel less comfortable in the lots,” he said. “We’ve increased overt presence because of that. The kidnapping was very unique for a college campus and the horror here was ‘that doesn’t happen here.’”
Yeagley estimated one-third to half of the crimes that occur in the city may involve students and said people under 30 are more likely to break the law.
David Price, a 45-year-old resident of Isabella County, has been on campus looking for work in part because his wife attends CMU. He agreed that visibility is an issue and that civilians must look to their own awareness to prevent themselves from being victimized.
“As usual, lighting is a big issue,” he said. “Visibility is the best plan you can do. You need witnesses. Police presence is not a real preventative measure. They can’t watch every corner.”