Last semester, Tyler Junior College implemented several changes to increase safety on campus. One semester later, members of the TJC community can see the impact of those changes.
“We just did a civility conference with all of the faculty and the great majority of them say they feel so much safer,” said Executive Director of Campus Safety Tom Johnson.
Data from Campus Safety reports suggest that the changes are not just making people feel safe, they are reducing criminal activity. From August to December 2010, Campus Safety responded to fewer calls about thefts, burglaries and assaults than they did from January to May. Reports of thefts fell 18 percent, automobile burglaries fell 63 percent and burglaries of habitation fell 83 percent.
According to Johnson, implementing lanyard requirements has been the single biggest crime-prevention effort the school has ever done.
“A large number of crimes against students are created by non-students who come to campus,” Johnson said.
“We’re asking a number of people to leave our property more than ever because we’re able to identify them before something happens. We are trying to be more proactive than reactive,” said Director of Campus Safety Randy Melton.
“Because of the lanyards we’ve actually caught convicted sexual offenders. We’ve caught people who have been arrested for armed robbery. We’ve caught some that had warrants out for their arrest for dealing drugs,” Johnson said. “It’s been very, very successful.”
TJC student Lexus Newhouse said the most significant change TJC has made to protect student’s safety is that “They enforce the rule that we wear our lanyards.” He chuckled then added, “They have more people around campus watching and making sure nothing bad happens to us.”
Among the people watching are members of the Tyler Police Department.
“We’ve entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Tyler Police Department. So you will see [uniformed] Tyler Police Officers walking around our campus. This is their beat,” Johnson said.
In addition to the uniformed officers, undercover officers and drug dogs will work to make the campus drug-free. Johnson noted that many students are not aware that TJC’s status as a Drug-Free School Zone means drug-related convictions carry heightened penalties.
“If you are caught with dope or contraband at this school, it’s much higher than if you got caught with it three blocks from here because this is a Drug-Free School Zone. So what may be a misdemeanor could easily be a felony,” Johnson said.
Lanyards help keep non-student drug dealers and other undesirable people off campus but it requires having people continuously watch for those who are not wearing one. This semester Ambassadors are helping enforce the policy. Ambassadors wear gold vests with “East Texas Friendly” on the back and “Tyler Junior College” on the front. Ambassadors can also issue day passes to students who do not have their lanyards.
According to Ambassador Pat White, most students do not cause problems when he stops them and enforces the policy.
“There are some who are just not going to do it,” he said. “If we can’t get them to do it, then we’ll pick them up and take them to [Campus Safety] and let them deal with it.”
And while complaints about having to wear lanyards are still common, other students share Newhouse’s opinion on their significance. TJC student Leslie Jackson also cited lanyards as one of the most significant changes to improve safety, but she added another factor.
“They cut down all those trees,” Jackson said.
Cutting down trees is part of TJC’s strategy of “crime prevention through environmental design.” This strategy also transformed the area around Rogers Student Center.
“One of the biggest complaints was females feeling uncomfortable to go to the Rogers Student Center and cafeteria,” Johnson said.
To help eliminate crowds, workers reduced the number of ledges that could be sat upon near the student center. Then they added flower gardens and decorative elements to the ledges.
“It makes the flow of traffic come in and out more. It’s not..like if you have a funnel where everything comes into one. What we’ve done is we’ve opened the spout quite a bit,” Johnson said.
“Since the changes these complaints have been virtually eliminated,” he added.
The landscape has also been changed to enable Campus Safety officers to see people more easily on campus. This includes the Surveillance Camera Monitor who uses two big screens to watch the campus through more than 250 cameras. He alerts officers when he sees or suspects trouble.
To illustrate how it helps, Johnson recalled an incident last semester when the monitor observed two young men in front of Rogers Student Center starting an altercation. Officers arrived less than 40 seconds after being alerted.
“So before the fight could get going, we had an officer there,” Johnson said. “It works wonderfully because we’re catching them before the crime instead of after.”
Note: The crime data for 2010 was obtained by manually tallying incidents documented in daily Campus Safety Reports which are provided to the Apache Pow Wow. These reports are a log of calls that Campus Safety responded to. While these reports reflect the most current information available, they are not from TJC’s Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report for 2010. The 2010 report will not be released until October.