RICHMOND, Va. -- While a new semester of classes and decorating their new rooms have been some students focus on the first day of classes at Virginia Commonwealth University, some say feeling safe while exploring their home away from home has also been on their minds.
"I feel safe now on campus, I commute," said VCU sophomore Adam Morkous. "I always see cops around and like campus security and stuff like that, so I definitely feel safe," said VCU freshman Roya Aboubakr.
It's a plan, John Venuti, the Associate Vice President of Public Safety for VCU, says they’ve been very intentional about.
"We're really trying to listen to what the community is saying and customize our approach rather than just we police, here you go, here’s what you get," Venuti said.
From officers patrolling both campuses on foot, bikes, or in cars 24/7, he said they have adjusted based on the community needs.
"We try to put more of a deployment on campus at night because that’s when community members report feeling less safe," Venuti said.
Another major concern is pedestrian safety. "We’ve done a lot of work with the city of Richmond on focusing on what pedestrian safety enhancements can be made here at VCU," he said.
Morkous said he's noticed some of the changes put in place. "I walk a lot around campus so now there are many speed bumps around the city, it’s been so much safer like walking down the street," Morkous said.
Venuti said VCU police worked with other local entities to come up with a three-point plan to further address the issue. The first part includes an increased police presence that may lead to more traffic violations to slow cars down as well as more parking violations to help those walking.
"A lot of times you’ll see vehicles improperly parked, and those improperly parked vehicles affect pedestrian site lines so pedestrians cannot see oncoming traffic," Venuti said.
The second and third parts include continuing to make students aware of the dangers while also amplifying the message on social media.
"We’re really taking every possible opportunity we can to educate, make students aware of things they should be doing," said Venuti. "Many of our intersections have state-of-the-art safety features at those intersections, but they don’t work if everyone disregards them and doesn't pay attention to them."
He encourages students to report anything whether related to traffic or something unusual they see on campus. "We don't care how you tell us but I am 100% completely unable to address problems and issues that I’m not aware of," Venuti said. "There are 50,000 sets of eyes and ears looking, watching out for each other, and at the end of the day communities keep communities safe and police just help."
There is a safety alert system anyone in the community can sign up for.
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