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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Light Rain, 46 °F

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Athens flyer

Promotional poster for safety campaign

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City, University team up to keep community smart, civil, safe


The city of Athens and Ohio University are working together on a public service campaign designed to help keep our community safe. The campaign debuts as warm weather activities kick into gear, but is designed to help all Athens residents and visitors understand and obey the laws year-round.
 
Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said the campaign was a result of joint meetings between the University and the city of Athens, both of whom are concerned about the number of arrests and the general unsafe behaviors that have occurred when large groups of people
congregate.

For residents who are students at Ohio University, the repercussions of unsafe behaviors are two-fold, including sanctions by law enforcement and the University.

"Last year, more than 300 students were referred to university judiciaries for unlawful behavior during the spring fests, and 42 were either suspended or are no longer students," said Lombardi. "That is too many; we want our students to earn their degrees and find meaningful employment without a negative record from their college years to haunt them." 

The campaign urges people to be smart, civil, and safe, along with the cautionary message that "what happens in Athens stays on Facebook, Twitter" and other online media. This message, according to Lombardi, serves as a reminder that public behaviors, including comments and pictures on social media, stay with individuals throughout their lives.

"I want to remind students that they have the responsibility to act safely and civilly, and to be smart when making choices during these events," said Lombardi. "Actions that impact their safety, the safety of others, or create a judicial or criminal record will not only affect their reputation, but also their future employment prospects and life opportunities."

Posters, fliers and other materials with the theme of the campaign will be distributed on campus and in the community. There also will be emails to students and parents, as well as messages on social media, city and University websites, and the University's
cable TV system. The city of Athens will produce public service announcements to be shown on the local government channel, and the city and University together will have face-to-face and door-to-door meetings with students and local residents.

Tom Pyle, Athens chief of police, and Andrew Powers, Ohio University chief of police, are also working together to keep residents safe.

"We have committed both departments to being extra vigilant about safety and civility whether on or off campus, and we want everyone to know and obey the laws because we will be enforcing them," said Pyle.

Powers said people are often surprised, or simply don't know, that particular behaviors are against the law.

"Consuming alcohol under the age of 21 or providing it to someone who is under age, is of course against the law, but so is having an open container of alcohol on public property, such as a sidewalk, no matter your age. It is also against the law to burn anything or to stand in the portion of a street intended for vehicles with or without
alcohol. Citizens can also file a complaint for loud music or unruly behavior," said Powers.

Powers also said that uniformed and undercover police will be taking photographs and videos at large gatherings in the community to document unlawful and unsafe behaviors, and that there will be extra patrols and safety measures used during these gatherings.

"The bottom line is that unruly behaviors simply cannot be tolerated as they pose a threat to student and citizen safety," said Powers.

Historically, out-of-town visitors coming to large gatherings in Athens have contributed significantly to situations that pose health and safety risks. For this reason, Chiefs Pyle and Powers strongly discourage inviting visitors to unsanctioned events in Athens. The chiefs also encourage all local residents to use them as a resource if they observe or find themselves in a situation that threatens health and safety.

"If you see a fight or something burning or being vandalized, or if people are in your house or on your property without your consent, call 911 and we will respond to help," said Pyle.

Lombardi said he hopes the campaign will bring awareness of the rules and laws, and of how one moment or action could potentially negate years of hard work.

"Students need to know that the university and the Athens community want only the best outcome for them, but that only they themselves can take responsibility for achieving that. We're asking them to be smart, civil, and safe so that they can enjoy all the good things about being a student and not jeopardize their futures because of one night of bad decision-making," said Lombardi.