Security calls on students to help prevent crime

By Dylan Matousek

Lumen Reporter

It’s late at night. You’ve just left the library and have several blocks to walk home. After you leave campus, the street lighting has de­creased. You become aware of sev­eral strangers walking the same di­rection as you. You feel threatened. What do you do?

Unfortunately for one Viterbo student, this hypothetical situation was all too real and ended in an at­tempted robbery. Vickie Unferth, Viterbo director of Residence Life, notified students of this incident in a safety alert email Monday, Dec. 12. It is reported as having taken place on Seventh Street between Division and Ferry streets. Such an incident serves as a reminder for all students to maintain safe habits while walk­ing in the neighborhood.

In addition to that incident, there have been several break-ins to Vit­erbo faculty offices reported. In an email sent by David Pleasants, Viter­bo director of security, faculty were alerted to three instances of possible theft in the past fall semester. The first of which was an iPad taken from an office in Murphy Center; the second was cash missing from a purse in the Nursing building; and the last was also cash missing from a purse in Brophy Center.

Not only that, but the baby Jesus was stolen from the Murphy Center nativity scene. It was later returned.

These incidents have not, how­ever, undermined feelings of safety among Viterbo students.

“I’ve never felt unsafe on campus or walking around the neighbor­hood,” said Sam Pankonen, senior nursing major from Wisconsin Rap­ids.

“I think the Viterbo area is pretty safe, actually,” commented Oliver Smith, senior Nursing major from Cambridge, Wis.

Such feelings of safety can be at­tributed to the efforts of security offi­cers and Pleasants, who has worked for the university for two and a half years. Prior to coming to Viterbo, he served as an officer in the Coast Guard and worked for the St. Paul Fire Department for 30 years.

“We’ve come a long way,” Pleas­ants said of safety measures at Vit­erbo.

One such safety measure is the employment of a private team of campus security. Comprised of two full-time and six part-time officers, Viterbo’s campus security team is on duty 24/7. The security team is contracted from the Permar securi­ty company and reports directly to Pleasants.

“They’re there to assist primary responders,” Pleasants said of the security team’s duties. These duties include calling the police in neces­sary circumstances, patrolling the Viterbo campus, and safeguarding Viterbo property and life.

“We support whatever it takes for academics to take place,” Pleasants said of security’s viewpoint on cam­pus activity and building security.

Another safety measure, imple­mented before Pleasants’ time at Viterbo, is the Safe Walk program. It allows students the opportunity to call campus security and request an escort to walk them to their des­tination. Safe Walk is staffed by students on the work study security team. It has an operational range of up to two blocks from campus.

“They’re the eyes and ears of the on duty security officer,” Pleasants said of the work student work study security team.

An upgrade to Viterbo’s secu­rity systems came in the increase of the number of cameras on campus. Pleasants declined to provide the exact number of cameras, but said there are “quite a few.” These cam­eras are not monitored constantly but are instead used for situational incidents and review purposes.

“We’ve turned evidence over to the police on several occasions that have resulted in arrests,” Pleasants said of the cameras.

In addition to cameras, Viterbo has increased the amount of lighting on campus, upgraded the training programs for campus security, add­ed student work study security, and upgraded their training.

Pleasants added that campus se­curity begins with the habits of in­dividuals.

“If you’re careless about things you invite trouble,” Pleasants re­marked. “There’s all sorts of things you can do,” including: locking your vehicle, placing valuables out of sight in your vehicle, traveling in groups, carrying your phone to call 911 in case of an emergency, and us­ing alcohol responsibly.

“It’s common sense stuff,” Pleas­ants said. “A little bit of prevention goes a long way.”

Such advice is supported by Offi­cer Andrew Dittman, La Crosse Po­lice Department University Liaison.

“Take considerations to protect yourself and your property,” Ditt­man advised. “Try to stay in groups, have a cell phone with you, park and travel in well let areas when pos­sible, stay together, and consume alcohol responsibly.”

“Don’t be afraid to call for help,” Dittman stressed.

Dittman also said that overall crime rates in the city have de­creased. He said in the Viterbo area, crime seems to have gone down considerably from even three years ago.

“We have a strong community- based approach,” Dittman said of police security policies. A focus on community is also supported by Pleasants.

“A big future goal I would have would be community involvement in outreach to the neighborhood,” Pleasants said. He mentioned a possible cooperation with neighbor­hood watch associations by students living in the community as one way to implement such a goal.

Goals of improving neighbor­hood safety are not limited to the ef­forts of Pleasants and the La Crosse Police Department. Common Coun­cil District Representative Audrey Kader also cited neighborhood safe­ty as one of her focuses.

“In my opinion it’s important that we continue to nurture good working relationships between the city and our universities as we all plan for the future,” Kader said. She cited some of her concerns as im­proving street lighting in the neigh­borhood, dealing with the presence of drugs, and addressing derelict and deteriorating properties.

“Nothing can be done safely here without the community, students, and faculty being safe and obser­vant,” Pleasants said.

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