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97 December 2, 2016

UWG Responds to Safety Concerns – The WOLF News

By Bode Brooks, The WOLF News Director

The University of West Georgia Student Government Association held a panel on Thursday, November 17th to address safety on campus and in the student community. Members of the administration and local police force made up the panel and discussed safety initiatives and issues both on and off campus, “campus carry,” and tips and programs offered to students for their own safety.

University of West Georgia Dean of Students Dr. Xavier Whitaker led the discussion panel headed by Ned Watson, University Police Deputy Chief, Matt Jordan, Director of Risk Management, Stephen Whitlock, Director of Housing, Greg Falls, Carrollton Police Lieutenant, and Michael McDowell, also of Carrollton Police.

Panelists talked at length about safety initiatives put into effect in recent weeks at UWG, but also emphasized the importance of community policing. “If you see something strange, report it,” Dr. Xavier Whitaker said. “Usually when you trust your instincts, you tend to be correct. We’d rather you report something, and if it turns out it’s a false report, that’s fine.”

Michael McDowell, a CPD officer and student at UWG, said, “we’re primarily a reactionary force. Criminals aren’t going to call us and let us know they’re about to rob some place. Crime prevention begins by being proactive as a community. Little things like locking a door make a huge difference. Just thinking a few steps up ahead can really help us out.” McDowell went on to address concerns raised about security at off-campus residences. McDowell, himself, resides in an off-campus student apartment complex, which he explained is very customary of police officers. It’s part of his job to monitor the entrance to the apartment complex on some nights, which happens at most off-campus housing frequented by students. McDowell even touched on incidents he’s responded to right outside his front door. In light of recent events, security has increased at these locations.

In late October, University of West Georgia student Tyler Ford was shot and killed at the River Pointe apartment complex, just one block from UWG’s main campus. The incident, which happened in the late afternoon, bolstered efforts by UPD and CPD to more closely monitor off-campus housing during daylight hours.

UWG Housing Director Stephen Whitlock talked about efforts made to protect students living on-campus. Whitlock explained the tough, yet necessary decision to lock down UWG residence halls. “We have 86 entrances to our residence halls. We counted them. We locked 71 down,” he said. Whitlock expected the decision to be unpopular with students however, housing applications rose significantly during this term in comparison to applicants in previous years, following the housing lock-down. Additionally, 24-hour security staff now monitors all residence hall entrances. Whitlock said the decision to lock down housing is somewhat indefinite. “We will always review our policies to turn back, but it is not my plan to turn back at all.”

In regards to personal defense, some students asked about what the administration’s stance was towards “campus carry,” if the law is passed in Georgia to allow the lawful possession of a firearm. The panel affirmed that they are mostly neutral on the subject, but at the present time it is illegal and will not be condoned. UPD Officer Ned Watson did outline what weapons were legal to carry on college campuses, including pepper spray and, as of July, a stun gun. Officer Watson encouraged students to be well versed in how to handle a weapon if they choose to carry them, and also mentioned self-defense programs, including Rape Aggression Defense, that is offered for free to students by UPD.

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