Troy campus focuses on safety, awareness

Published 6:12 am Friday, December 9, 2011

It could happen anywhere.

That’s the mentality Troy University has regarding on-campus violence. From advanced weaponry, to bulletproof blankets, to perimeter cameras, University Police are prepared for the worst.

“We hope we never have to use it,” said Troy University Police Chief John McCall. “But we have ballistic shields and can place a bulletproof blanket over the windshield of a car and drive up on the quad.”

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With an apparent increase in situations of school violence, such as the Virginia Tech shooting four years ago and another on the same campus Thursday, Troy has been lucky to have avoided a major incident.

While there have been no on-campus cases of violence against students, almost a year ago, a 20-year-old female student was abducted from her home on Smith Street and driven about three miles away before she escaped. She’d been stabbed and beaten, and although Troy Police Sgt. Benny Scarborough said the department works on the case in some fashion every day, police have yet to catch her assailant.

“Even after that incident, I didn’t feel unsafe on campus,” said 19-year-old student Danielle Percival from Wetumpka. “Maybe I am being naive, but I just don’t think about that sort of thing happening here.”

Percival said she feels that there is enough university staff available who are prepared to help students, if something were to happen on campus.

Steven Boydstun, 24, is a Troy senior from Daleville and said he’s pleased to have seen some extra safety measures put in place since he’s been at the university.

“We have emergency boxes on campus that have a direct line to the police,” Boydstun said. “Those were installed after the first Virginia Tech incident. You just hit the button and a strobe light goes off and you’ve got the police on the line.”

Boydstun said, although he feels safe on campus, he doesn’t walk alone at night and many of his female friends carry pepper spray. He feels that’s a direct response to Jan. 10, 2011, off-campus attack.

“While we may not talk about it anymore, people have learned from it,” Boydstun said.

Troy’s Student Government Association President Darreyel Laster, 22, from Pensacola, Fla., said it’s his goal to keep personal safety in the mind of the students.

“We were in a meeting today, passing around a cell phone, watching for updates on Virginia Tech and we decided we needed to do something.”

Laster said the SGA sponsored a Town Hall meeting after the January attack, but he feels students should continue to step up their awareness. That’s why he plans to discuss future safety programs with the university’s Board of Trustees next week.

“We need to sit down with faculty and the Board of Trustees and students and decide what we should do if something this horrible was to happen here,” Laster said.

In the meantime, McCall said the best thing students can do to stay safe is to be aware of what is happening on campus. That’s made easier by the school’s SOS text and e-mail system. Any student or parent can sign up to receive those alerts about any emergency or warning that might affect campus, including weather.

“Every kid on campus has a cell phone. It’s the easiest way to get in touch with them,” McCall said. “We’re very cautious about sending those messages, too. If they get an SOS from us, it’s something serious.”