Safety, security of campus community still a top priority, administrators say
Members of the campus community recently joined the family of Patricia Guardado during a candlelight vigil to remember the slain student on the one-year anniversary of her death. On Oct. 16, 2011, Guardado’s body was found in Sweet Home, just four days after her disappearance from a parking lot near campus on Oct. 12.
“I think it made us aware that we’re not immune to anything,” said University Police Chief Regina Wade-Carter. “It showed us that evil things can happen outside of our control, and that made people be more aware of their surroundings.”
Since Guardado’s murder, university administration has been active in ensuring the safety of its population, but statistics show that the rate of violent or forcible crimes was already on a downturn when the incident occurred.
After the incident, UALR bolstered its security measures by developing new awareness programs and initiating the use of a contracted trolley service to transport students on and around campus. But statistics show that the rate of violent crimes was already experiencing a downturn.
According to crime statistics released by the Department of Public Safety in early October, UALR’s violent or forcible crime rates have decreased 56 percent from October 2009 to October 2011. Among these data are four violent crimes reported to have occurred in 2011, compared to nine listed in 2009.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville reported 15 crimes of a similar nature to have occurred in 2011, which is up 20 percent since 2009. Arkansas State University reported two such crimes last year.
“[Dean of Students Logan Hampton] is leading this effort to help us be more proactive in issues that students, faculty and staff may have,” said Charles Donaldson, vice chancellor of educational, student services and student life. “I think we’re doing a good job. Part of the problem is perception, and I know that perception becomes reality. But you can never do too much to be safe, and that’s at the top of our list.”
Hampton said DPS is not the only entity students contact when they have concerns. Although the Office of the Dean of Students handles many behavioral issues, he emphasized the importance of contacting the police directly in an emergency situation.
“If behavior is presented that is unacceptable in an educational environment, it will be addressed from a number of different perspectives,” Hampton said, “and we will respond to those things.”
Despite recent administrative steps toward improved safety precautions, Wade-Carter said DPS is not doing anything differently.
“We’re doing what we’ve been doing in the past,” Wade-Carter said. “We believe in extremely patrolling the perimeters of the campus, that way you catch people on the front end before they even get on campus.”
The Office of the Dean of Students is now piloting a program that is modeled after a national movement of behavioral intervention teams. The program will be called the University Behavioral Intervention Team, according to Hampton, who said he hopes for it to be in working order by fall 2013.
“We’re still in the pilot phase,” Hampton said. “We’ve been testing out our procedures, practices and protocols to see if we can manage these things.”
The vigil was organized by members of the Spanish honor society Sigma Delta Pi, along with several of Guardado’s former classmates from Erin Finzer’s seminar on violence in Latin American literature.