by Mahogany Waldon
Interim police Chief Theodore Price of the Norfolk State University Police Department assures that the department is in the process of developing new ways to ensure campus safety. After a student was shot with a BB gun on campus and a string of vehicle break-ins, the pledge to come up with more creative ways to enforce safety couldn’t have come sooner.
On Wednesday, February 25th while exiting her car near the Babbette Smith South Tower around 12:30 p.m., Alexis Gee, a senior fine arts/graphic design major heard popping noises. As she exited the car, she felt a sharp pain in her rear. She then realized she was under attack. From the upper floor of the resident hall, a group of male students had shot Gee with a BB gun. Although campus police was notified of the event, the incident went unreported in the police department’s crime log and students were not alerted of the incident through campus alerts.
“We are reviewing the process and procedures of reporting crimes on campus. Under federal law, only certain incidents involve timely notification. The incident with the BB gun didn’t fall into one of the listed incidents but again, we are reviewing the policy” said Police Chief Theodore Price.
The federal law that is in question is the Clery Act. The law requires that campuses and universities disclose information about crimes on campus. Within the law, crimes including criminal homicide, sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, motor vehicle theft and arson must receive timely notification to the department and if need be, the city’s commonwealth attorney’s office.
Along with reviewing the Clery Act, the university police department has various ways of ensuring the safety of students including social media accounts managed by the media relations department, emails, safety seminars, new call boxes, and an increased security presence. Currently, there is 24-hour security monitoring of the Spartan Suites parking lot, this came after a string of vehicle break-ins in the Spartan Suites parking lot during the weekend of March 7th and 8th. The university police have also started using the app LiveSafe that allows users to be able to report crimes on campus. Norfolk State is the first HBCU in the state of Virginia to implement the app.
After her ordeal on campus, Gee felt that certain aspects of the university could be improved. Gee said that “the university should ensure that the police department is fully staffed, that officers follow protocol and educate students on zero tolerance policies.” In regards to the safety of other students she said “my peers should be aware of their surroundings at all times. Also they should speak up when something happens.”
Despite the unfortunate events, Chief Price is confident that things will get better. “We are always looking for better ways to interact with students. We are not perfect but we want to be transparent. We just want students to feel safe.”