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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

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Police chief provides safety tips for students

Unnecessary risks can lead to crime


Although the Ohio University campus has a better-than-average safety record, crime and unsafe conditions can be found anywhere, according to Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers.

While Athens is relatively safe when compared to many college cities around the nation, Powers cautioned against taking that for granted.  He cited an incident from the past weekend as a perfect example of how anyone can find themselves in a precarious situation.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, a female student awoke to find a male she didn’t know in her residence hall room, looking for her suitemates who hadn't yet moved in. He apparently entered her room through the door of an adjacent room, which was found to have a broken lock.

Powers said that while the female student was not hurt and nothing was stolen, the incident reminds us all to report suspicious circumstances to the OUPD (740-593-1911) and non-functional safety items such as locks, doors and windows to Facilities Management (740-593-2911).

"Protecting our community is the first priority of the police department, but we can’t be everywhere at once," Powers said. "We strongly encourage everyone to make safety a personal priority by keeping crime prevention in mind at all times and reporting suspicious activity to the police immediately."      

With that thought in mind, Powers shared the following safety tips that will enhance personal safety on campus:

1.    Lock your residence hall door. Even trips to the shower or a friend's room warrant this important precaution.

2.    Do not open doors to strangers or prop open main doors of residence halls as a favor for a friend who has forgotten or doesn't have a key.

3.    Report suspicious people to police. It is better to err on the side of caution than to think perhaps you should call police and then regret not doing so.

4.    Familiarize yourself with campus crime alerts. These are noted on flyers posted around campus, e-mailed to the campus and posted on the OUPD website, www.ohio.edu/police.

5.    Don't walk alone after dark. Instead, walk in groups or with a friend, and stay in well-lighted, populated areas. Or consider using the SAFE-T Patrol (740-593-4040), a free service offering students, staff and visitors a walking escort to campus locations or those in close proximity.

6.    Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you. Don't trust anyone you don't know well. Walk confidently and at a steady pace. Stay close to the curb and avoid doorways, bushes and alleys.

7.    If you believe you are in danger, or believe someone is harming themselves or others, don't hesitate to use one of the freestanding blue-light emergency phones on campus. Each residence hall also contains a phone box with an emergency button that alerts OUPD.

8.    Realize that talking on a cell phone doesn't ensure your safety. In fact, someone who could do you harm may consider you an easier target because you're distracted.

9.    If you feel you are in danger, attract attention by yelling loudly and forcefully. Don't feel you are limited to acceptable ways of calling attention to yourself. For instance, yell "fire" or break a window. Assailants often are deterred by assertive actions by potential victims.

10.  If someone is not committing a crime but you believe that person's behavior could be harmful, talk it over with a campus counselor.

11.  Attend a CALL program in your residence hall or as a member of your social or fraternal organization. These OUPD programs provide safety and awareness information and can be scheduled by calling the OUPD.

12.  Use common sense and avoid putting yourself at risk. It is safer to be too careful than not careful enough.