COLLEGES + UNIVERSITIES

How Utah colleges are working to improve student safety

Aug 28, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:09 pm

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FILE: Universities across the state are working to improve student safety on and off campus now that they are heading back to the classroom. (Colby Walker | KSL NewsRadio)

(Colby Walker | KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Universities across the state are working to improve student safety on and off campus now that they are heading back to the classroom. 

Each college has several safety measures, that often help before an accident happens.

“A lot of it is really just trying to do prevention right,” said Paige Davies, director of the women’s center at Weber State. “We want to be sure that our students feel physically safe on campus, that they know where to go, and that their buildings and residence halls and all of that can be secured as well.”

One common safety factor among several universities is maintaining an increased police presence.

University of Utah’s chief safety officer Keith Squires says they will have more police and security at events to try and mitigate accidents.

“It’s just a matter of wanting to be proactive and have that presence,” he said. “To just have everyone feel the need to operate safely and work with each other to create a safe environment.”

Weber State does the same.

“We try to have a really community-based policing approach,” Davies said. “We have officers out and about to get to know students, build relationships with them, help them feel comfortable reaching out.”

At Utah State University there are public safety officers around campus on foot, bikes, golf carts, and more according to public safety executive director, Ellis Bruch.

“The biggest thing we need is people to feel comfortable engaging with our public safety team,” Bruch said.

Students reporting incidents or dangers to the safety team helps the university identify safety gaps, and figure out how to increase safety for all students.

“We ask that all students engage with us as much as they possibly can,” he said. “We want to know what’s going on our campus.”

University of Utah

The University of Utah focuses on community outreach to determine helpful programs and areas that need more security. Some security programs include:

On-campus safety

  • Blue safety phones located throughout the campus
  • Crime data analyst who analyzes crimes taking place on campus, then provides data on where to put resources such as increased police presence
  • Integrated university security officers with the local police force
  • Additional police and security officers at university events
  • Safety escort program
  • Commuter safe ride services
  • Safety information and Q&A with security at new student orientations
  • Campus alert system
  • Public crime dashboard to alert where and when crimes happen on campus

Off-campus safety

  • Student ambassadors who act as mediators between security and students in housing areas and on campus to help security be proactive
  • Security and police services at off-campus housing
  • Extra police presence at off-campus popular student areas
  • Clery Act crimes collection

Squires said students can have an extra layer of safety by traveling with friends and reporting unsafe activities to security.

Weber State University

Weber State has its own police jurisdiction with fully certified officers and focuses on a community-based officer approach.

On-campus safety

  • Roaming police officers on campus 24/7
  • On-campus 911 dispatch center
  • Code Purple app that provides safety resources, maps, and virtual face walks
  • Virtual safe walks connected with the dispatch center or friends to be sure students travel safely
  • Safe@Weber program to respond to discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, and other safety issues
  • Prevention education with online training, workshops, events, etc.
  • Safety escorts
  • Regular audits of safety policies and procedures
  • Safety training at new student orientations
  • Clery Act information

Off-campus safety

  • Ability to access safety apps and advocacy programs
  • Training for healthy relationships and risk-reduction information
  • Access to all campus resources

The school also has academic advisors and counselors to help students struggling with other safety issues.

“While we are trying to prevent all violence and harm from happening, we know that students come with full lives and past experiences,” Davies said. “So if they’re struggling in any way, reach out for help.”

Utah State University

USU works hard to create healthy communication between students and public safety officers to increase trust and fix any student safety issues.

On-campus safety

  • University 24/7 law enforcement staff
  • Student security officers
  • Dispatch center to help students communicate with public safety, available 24/7
  • Aggie Safe App to connect students to USU police and public safety officers
  • Evaluations of daytime and nighttime activities before the school year begins
  • Limitations of dark spots on campus
  • Review and update of camera positions
  • 24/7 camera coverage for most areas of campus
  • Security escort service
  • All public safety staff participating in training each year
  • Active shooter response videos and classes are required for all teachers and incoming students
  • Public safety templates for all campus response departments
  • Improved reporting process for students/staff to report unsafe activities
  • Clery Act campus crimes updated and publicly accessible
  • Safety training for students and staff
  • Crime alerts and warnings
  • Lighted campus paths

Off-campus safety

  • Access to all on-campus services
  • Increased communication with off-campus residential areas
  • Lighted off-campus paths
  • Security escort service
  • Working with community members to create safe crosswalk areas

Bruch suggests students always exercise situational awareness to add an extra layer of protection both on and off campus.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” he said.

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How Utah colleges are working to improve student safety