Texas A&M University-Kingsville is investing approximately $600,000 this year to install a new video surveillance system on campus that will provide better campus monitoring and identification in the event of any campus crimes.
According to the Clery Report there have been five sexual assaults reported on campus over the past three years. The university says it receives reports of campus sexual assaults about three times a year. Most of these alleged assaults happened at night in the dark, unlit walkways of campus, data shows.
Some students feel poorly-lit areas on campus may add to the problem
Freshman biology major Ernie Muñoz said,
“Some of the poorly-lit areas on the campus itself,
specifically the area where the giant paintbrush is (west of the Speech Building) is the darkest place in the entire school. I think that is the area where most of the sexual assaults have been reported.”
At least one alleged sexual assault has been reported in that area this year.
Teresa Riley, senior vice president for Fiscal and Student Affairs elaborates on the measures the school is taking to effectively fix the lighting situation and ensure student safety.
“This year we have received funding for added lighting on Avenue B, which will extend from the existing parking lots all the way down to Santa Rosa,” Riley said. This is a new street and we are working to get this lighting installed over the next several months.”
Improvements are also planned for existing lights on parking lots and the overall campus, she said.
“While we are doing this work, we will be trimming trees which block lights and that will improve lighting, too,” Riley added.
Felipe E. Garza, TAMUK Chief of Police, advises students to take certain precautions when out on campus at night and encourages students to make sure to check out the school’s new safety app – Javguard.
“Remember that you should always be aware of your surroundings, and take advantage of ‘Javguard’,” said Garza. “Texas A&M University Kingsville’s Guardian phone app which enhances safety on campus through real-time interactive features that create a virtual safety network of friends, family and campus police.”
“The app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google play for any smart phone, under ‘Rave Guardian’ and register with TAMUK using your campus email,” added Garza. Javguard enables users to use its GPS tracking feature and set timers when they travel between potentially unsafe locations on and around Texas A&M University – Kingsville. The new app is basically a blue light emergency system available right on your phone.
The app has three components:
1. The panic button provides app users with a button for emergency calls directly to University Police. Dispatch receives the call while an alert system message sounds off on the computer screen revealing the location of the caller.
2. The tip texting feature allows the app user to send an anonymous crime tip report, as well as send and receive texts from the dispatcher whenever calling is inconvenient. With the texting feature you can take a photo as well and send that with the text,
3. The safety timer is where a student can pick a contact to be a guardian. The app user can set up the safety timer that notifies trusted contacts to check in on them when they are alone, heading somewhere unfamiliar or meeting someone they don’t know.
In addition UPD also recommends the following:
-Have a plan
-Walk with confidence
-Walk with a friend whenever possible
-Avoid dark areas, high shrubbery, and shortcuts: stay in well lighted areas
-Try to walk facing oncoming traffic
-Cross streets using marked crosswalks or at intersections
-Maintain a secure grip on purses and personal items
-Keep your cell phone at the ready
-Program the UPD telephone number (361-593-2611) in your cell phone
-Familiarize yourself with the emergency call box locations on campus
-Be wary of newly acquired acquaintances
-Don’t reveal personal information to new found friends
“The University Police Department at TAMUK continuously conduct security surveys to ensure campus lighting is adequate and that the landscape is appropriately controlled,” Garza said.
University police officers conduct routine checks of lighting to make sure the lights are not out or dim. The university is committed to installing video surveillance on campus, which also includes lighting updates, in an effort to provide a safer environment for everyone on campus, Riley said.
“I believe students’ voices last year were very powerful in helping us to emphasize the need to invest in these initiatives,” Riley said.
“Working closely with the Student Government Association, a variety of student groups, the Director of Compliance, and reviewing a student study on lighting, the President and I prioritized lighting and video surveillance in this year’s budget as well as the purchase and implementation of Javguard, our new mobile application which provides an immediate connect to UPD, 911, and incident reporting feature.”
The school is taking some serious action to try to prevent any more assaults on campus. Students, faculty, staff and friends please remember to use the Javguard app, follow Mr. Garza’s advice and stay safe.