Student Safety Remains Steady
BY HANNAH MILLER
In the aftermath of an attempted assault near campus, a review of safety statistics shows that reports of criminal offenses on campus have remained steady in recent years.
In 2008, the latest annual data available, there were three incidents of forcible sex offenses, two counts of aggravated assault and four burglaries, according to the UMW police department’s most recent annual security report. There were two incidents of aggravated assault in 2008, while there was none the prior year.
While the total overall offenses dropped to 11 in 2008 from 12 in 2007, cases of arson dropped to two from four, and forcible sexual offenses remained the same at three. There was one robbery in 2007 and none in 2008.
According to city and university safety officials, there are numerous steps students can take to make themselves more secure. Natatia Bledsoe, Fredericksburg police department public information officer, stressed that students should use common sense even though many believe Fredericksburg to be a safe city.
“Travel in pairs, don’t go out alone at night, be aware of surroundings, don’t leave valuables out and lock them up,” she added.
Junior Cassie Peters said that the Eagle Landing parking deck feels secure and convenient when heading back to her apartment late at night after work.
“I feel safe when walking back from my car because of the gate, the lights and the cameras,” Peters said.
With 139 blue lights, a large number compared with other nearby Virginia colleges, and increased security measures on campus, many students consider UMW a safe environment, even late at night.
The blue-light system and the student escort program are both offered to students who are concerned about their safety.
Chief of Police Eddie Perry said the current blue-light system at UMW certainly helps.
When asked about the large number of blue lights on campus, Perry responded, “UMW does have the most blue lights for a campus this size.”
Perry also said that he is happy that students use the escort program at UMW.
“Officers escort students on a regular basis,” Perry said.
According to Perry, a student can be escorted by police car, golf cart or on foot.
He said that the only time there is a vehicle requirement is when the service is requested for health reasons.
At night, escorts help students get around in the dark. During the day, students who can’t walk for health reasons are helped to class.
When walking back to her car late at night after work in downtown Fredericksburg, Peters said the surroundings and atmosphere keep her safe.
“It’s safe because the parking lot is well-lit and behind a busy business area,” Peters said. “We all walk out together, so it is safety in numbers.”
At the police department, Bledsoe said she wants students to know that the purpose of the Fredericksburg police is to help them, not to hassle them.
“We want [students] to be safe and feel comfortable contacting us,” Bledsoe said.
-Anne Elder contributed to this report.