November 26, 2020

Violence on US campuses decline; affecting Webster

After making headlines all over the nation, the Ohio high school shooting in February brought concern to the problem of violent crimes in schools. However, according to NPR.org, experts are saying violent crime in schools and universities has been decreasing since the early 1990s.

The National Center for Education said 1993 was the year school violence peaked. Though Webster is not immune to violent crimes, many have never and still do not consider violence to be a problem at Webster.

“Since violence (at Webster) is so rare, there is really not anything to judge it against,” Dan Pesold, director of Public Safety, said. “We are such a small 47 acres and we rarely have crime of that nature. I would be hesitant to say that it has dropped or it has risen because we just don’t have it.”

Some students agree that feeling safe on campus is a part of Webster’s appeal.

“After Virginia Tech and after Ohio, you hear those things and it does make you think a little bit about it,” Chris Penberthy, graduate student, said.  “But I still would say if something like that were to happen, I think we would cover things pretty well on campus.“

The Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a study in 2005 which said 93% of violent crimes involving university students at the ages of 18-24 tend to take place off campus.

Pesold said off-campus crime is not something Public Safety takes into account because it is not within their jurisdiction.

“That is just statistical data, that doesn’t mean we don’t offer any support to that student,” Pesold said.

The Cleary Act requires Webster to put out an annual crime booklet. Webster’s Security Policies and Crime Statistics for 2011 show all crimes recorded by Public Safety in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Three forcible sex offenses as well as seven aggravated assault offenses were the only violent acts that happened on campus in those three years. No acts of violence were recorded off campus during those three years.

“We’ve had some occasions where people get into fights,” Pesold said. “There have been sexual assaults, but it’s hard to say that crimes have dropped because we just don’t have that much.”

Pesold said one violation that has decreased at Webster is stealing in common areas where people leave their personal belongings. He said students are becoming more aware, so theft is decreasing.

According to NPR.org, research has shown that school-age and college-age students feel safer on their school campuses than other places.

“I think by this age, college students are more aware that smaller acts of violence really don’t solve anything,” Penberthy said. “I would say that when talking about the smaller acts of violence, I feel safer here than my high school.”

Pesold attributes a large part of Webster’s safety to its location.

“The area we are in is a big part of it,” Pesold said. “Will crime happen? Yes. You give the opportunity to do it, it will.  It is part location and part awareness. If you are aware and don’t give crime the opportunity, it’s not going to happen.”

Through new student orientation, students learn about important resources at Webster, including how to stay safe on campus through presentations by Public Safety. Pesold said Public Safety will begin posting videos to their website to show students how both Public Safety and students should react during an act of violence on campus.

“I personally feel safe because I’m prepared,” Bill Stephens, freshman, said. “I am signed up for Webster alerts and I know the emergency number to Public Safety.”

Though Webster has not seen much violent crime, preparation and awareness seem to be the strongest, most effective preventions of future crime.

“It’s not to say that crime won’t happen, or that crime will never happen,” Pesold said. “It’s just we want to be prepared if it does happen.

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