Miss. colleges preach safety, accountability

Miss. colleges preach safety, accountability

Emma Scott, news editor

Oxford High School students scouting around for a school where they can further their education after graduation should consider the safety of a college campus as well as the institution’s academic offerings.

The colleges OHS students most often enroll in are the University of Mississippi (UM), Northwest Community College (NWCC), Itawamba Community College (ICC), Mississippi State University (MSU) and Delta State University (DSU), according to Assistant Principal Paul Ross.

Under the Clery Act, colleges are required to release an annual security report, which outlines reported crimes on campus within the last three years.

All of these colleges’ reports can be found on their respective websites.  Out of this handful of schools, the ones with the lowest number of reported crimes are ICC, NWCC and DSU, according to these annual security reports.

“While I cannot single out any program or reason for our lower rate, I would like to think this is a result of our college’s commitment to improving safety and security on our campuses,” said Dr. Buddy Collins, vice president of student services at ICC.

When it comes to lower incidents of crime, size of enrollment and visibility of law enforcement are two important factors.

“We have a smaller student body. We have a very active police department,” Zabron Davis, chief of police at NWCC said. “We make a point to get out there, get to know students and be seen as much as possible.”

Though the annual report shows that UM had a higher number of reported crimes than some of the other schools, the university was ranked 39 on the list of “50 Safest Large Colleges and Universities in America” by CollegeChoice in September.

“Ole Miss is one of the safest in the SEC, if not the safest,” UM Chief of Police Tim Potts said via email. “Doesn’t mean crime doesn’t happen, but we do a good job of reporting the crimes that take place and investigating them.”

Chief Communications Officer at MSU Sid Salter suggests that even though the number of reported crimes are most likely higher at larger schools, the rate would not necessarily be higher because of the amount of students.

“The ‘rate’ of crime is based on the number of occurrences per thousand. The ‘number’ of crimes is just that,” Salter said. “So do large schools have a higher number of crimes? Likely. But is the rate higher because the number is higher? Not necessarily.”

All colleges offer various means to protect their students, from escorts and crime prevention programs to self defense courses. In some cases, it is the setting that plays a role in campus safety.

“This somewhat rural setting contributes to the safe environment on the campus, along with local and university police being trained to respond to a wide array of emergencies, from active shooter to fire and disaster,” DSU Chief of Police Jeffrey Johns said.

However, there are still methods that people can do to protect themselves when they are on campus, including accountability for personal safety.

All of the colleges suggested that it does not take just one person or group to keep the campuses safe, but the whole student body.

“It takes everyone to make a safe campus and that effort is certainly led by your campus safety department,” Johns said.