Andrew Rock, News Editor
Mississippi College may have gotten secure new identification cards, but what else is there to staying safe? According to Public Safety, most of the things students can do are simple, such as paying attention to the area around them, traveling in groups, and locking their doors.
Although MC is a “very safe campus” according to Brent Perkins, assistant director for the office of public safety, many students still occasionally feel nervous. Some residents of University Place especially feel uneasy about making the long walk home in the dark.
Stephen McCraney, director of public safety, explained how students can keep themselves safe, particularly after dark. Anyone can call public safety with the number on the back of their ID, and security will pick them up and escort them to their dorm, class, or parked car.
He advised anyone walking outside to keep their “head on a swivel,” and pay constant attention to their surroundings. “Be aware of what’s happening around you,” he said.
McCraney said that one of the biggest mistakes is to walk along staring at a phone and not looking around. Many of us have had encounters where someone is both walking and texting and bumps into you. If you can’t see someone before you walk into them, then how would you see a mugger approaching and change direction?
McCraney also advised students walking at night to stay together-there is “safety in numbers.”
McCraney and Perkins both urge a student who feels unsafe to call Public Safety, who can pick them up or deal with a suspicious person. If you think you are being followed, change direction and go to a “well-lit” area, or somewhere with more people.
While walking to your car, check to see if there is anyone standing around it before you reach it. Have your keys already in your hand so you’re not standing around in a dark parking lot fumbling for them. That way, when you reach your car, you can get right in and immediately lock the doors.
Another precaution is to call security if something seems amiss. “If something seems out of the ordinary,” McCraney said, “Report it to us.”
Both McCraney and Perkins were adamant that students should call Public Safety if they have any suspicions about something. Perkins emphasized that everyone should “err on the side of caution,” and thus “never hesitate to call.”
This is important because, as McCraney explained, Public Safety cannot be everywhere at once, therefore students reporting anything suspicious is vital. He said that there was someone on campus running a scam last year, and that thanks to someone reporting him, (and the alert system) they had the perpetrator about 5 minutes.
An example of something you would report occurred last year when two students were robbed on campus. Perkins said that the perpetrators were two older people who cruised slowly around the parking lot while scoping the area out. That is obviously suspicious behavior, and Public Safety should know if anyone sees it.
Most people assume that if a crime happens, it will be outdoors. However, Perkins advised everyone to be careful in their dorms as well. He told a story of how several men had been sneaking into dorm rooms at MC and stealing laptops while the occupants slept back in 2012. He said that one of smartest things you can do is simply lock your door, even “if you just step out to go to the bathroom for two minutes,” and while you sleep.
Another way to stay safe in the dorm is also something that makes life fun: Get to know the people on your hall. Perkins said that this makes it easier to tell who does and does not belong there. Again, he said, if something doesn’t seem right, call Public Safety.
In the event of a larger crisis such as an active shooter, Public Safety has a “very close” relationship with the Clinton Police Department. Perkins said that Public Safety works with them “on a daily basis” to ensure that the campus is patrolled and protected. McCraney also said that the local SWAT team trains in campus buildings during the summer months and Christmas break when students are at home.
Being alone at night in a parking lot, or simply checking the news, can be frightening. However, basic precautions such as looking around, locking your door, and calling Public Safety if necessary can go a long way to keeping everyone safe.