Staying Safe on Campus

By Raleigh Basinger

The Youngstown State University Police Department discussed with The Jambar the measures they take to ensure students’ safety on campus.

YSU police chief Shawn Varso said an escort service is available on campus for those who have night classes and feel unsafe.

“Students, staff, [and faculty] can set up an appointment with the escorts and have a regular escort done every night,” Varso said. “We have the resources and we would like for everyone to utilize them.”

Chris Vargo, Supervisor of Student Security Services, said they receive calls regardless of the time of day.

“In the past we have picked people up during the night for security purposes like walking them to their cars,” Vargo said. “We have had people during the day as well use us for security reasons.”

Ian Frantz, journalism student, said he feels safe on campus until there is talk of something bad.

“A few semesters ago when we had the rock painted after the Paris attack, I was a little nervous walking on campus,” Frantz said.

Campus would feel like a safer place with more police officers and active security cameras around, Frantz said.

YSU Police Department has put together a committee to plan out changes to the camera system on campus, Varso said.

“We are looking to enlarge that footprint of cameras on campus to cover more public areas,” Varso said. “We are in the process of working with the IT department to put together a comprehensive plan on where we are going to put additional cameras and how we are going to maintain them.”

Other measures are taken on campus to ensure safety, including ALICE training for student groups, resident assistants, and certain people in different departments.

Varso said all of YSU police officers are trained in dealing with active shooter situations, which was refreshed over winter break.

“If we do get a call, how are they going to respond when they get to the scene?” Varso said. “How are they going to engage with the active shooter and stop that situation?”

Every year the YSU Police Department has to do professional training that is mandated by the state of Ohio as well.

“For 2017, they have added additional training; it will be in the neighborhood of 20 hours of continuous professional training that the state mandated for us,” Varso said. “This year it dealt with topics [such as] the escalation in community relations.”

Varso said it is important to give the police department a call if something looks suspicious.

“We’ll send officers and check it out,” Varso said. “We’d rather deal with something that’s nothing than it to be something and somebody thought it wasn’t important.”

The direct line for the YSU Police Department is 330-941-3527. Varso encourages that people on campus program the seven-digit number into their cell phones.

“One of the big things is if you dial 911 on a cell phone while you are on campus, you get connected to the city of Youngstown,” Varso said. “That kind of delays the response getting to our officers to get the call out.”

Crime rates that occur on campus are documented on the YSU website. The 2016 crime rate statistics will be published in October.