Campus safety is community responsibility

A couple walks in front of the Assistance/Emergency phone in front of Kedzie and Fairchild Hall on Oct. 15, 2015. The phones are spread across campus in multiple high-traffic locations and connect to K-State Police. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

With a nervous sigh, Mikala Potts, freshman in elementary education, observed the distance that would take her from the Z Lot back to Ford Hall. The night was quiet and nearing midnight, but she still felt uneasy by the surrounding darkness.

Potts quickly dialed the Wildcat Walk number and was greeted by an operating system that claimed the service was unavailable. Confused, Potts tried again, only to hear the same message.

“I’m hoping that since it was the first week of school, that maybe it was just down,” Potts said. “Maybe they hadn’t gotten everything set up yet.”

Wildcat Walk is a service that provides a police or security escort to walk with the caller to an on-campus destination or up to two blocks for an off-campus location. Ideally the system is running 24/7, but Potts was unsure of why she was unable to find someone to walk her back to her dorm.

Maj. Don Stubbings, assistant director of the university police, said the blue light phones and light posts are checked weekly as an assurance to their working capability.

Potts saw this as an isolated event and said she generally liked the safe atmosphere on campus.

“It’s just mostly right on the outskirts walking around where the neighborhoods are that’s a little bit scarier at night, because it’s not as well-lit,” Potts said. “But there are friendly people and so many people around that no one can really do anything, because they’re going to be seen. I think if you’re smart about it, like as long as you stay in a group and you’re in a safer area, you can keep out of trouble.”

According to the 2015 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, arrests related to stalking on campus increased by two in 2014, bringing the year’s total to five.

Ellen Scism, sophomore in social work, said she would feel safer if there were more lights on campus so she could better see her surroundings when she got off work in Aggieville or went to the library.

“I think it’s important to have more well-lit areas, especially in places where they don’t think people will be like the parking lots,” Scism said. “I don’t think we have enough. They should put a couple more emergency call stations too just in case, because you never know where someone could be and when they need help. There’s been a couple times when it’s been almost too dark for me to feel comfortable walking at night.”

Scism also said changes to the city’s public transportation may help to increase the overall safety.

“That’s something we should definitely invest in just because you never think about people that don’t have cars or bikes,” Scism said. “Especially at night when you’re studying and tired, that awareness you have can be let down, so having a good transportation system for people that need it is important. I think it should basically run the same hours as Hale.”

Scism said she would rather have more precautions than to address an issue after the fact.

“I think recently there’s just been a lot of problems,” Scism said. “Not just school shootings (nationwide), but there’s some rapes and assault on campus. Instead of doing things after they happen, we should be more preventive of it happening in the first place because it doesn’t have to if we don’t let it.”

Although the campus police department has staff on duty 24 hours a day, campus safety is not only reliant on the work of the police, but also the awareness of those venturing out at night.

“Use common sense and utilize the free services campus offers like Wildcat Walk and Safe Ride,” Stubbings said. “Also communicate with your roommates and friends about where you are going and when they should expect you back. Technology is also available with the LiveSafe smartphone app. (It) has several safety features which allow you to have direct chat with dispatch, as well as a mapping feature where friends can monitor you when you are walking.”