Crime on campus

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[two_third]Drexel Gilbert

The Corsair

The good news is that the crime rate at Pensacola State College is low, compared to many other colleges and universities across the country. The bad news is that criminals are still targeting students, faculty and staff.

Most of the time they are attempting to steal what belongs to you. Occasionally, the crimes take a decidedly violent turn.

Non-violent theft related incidents are the most prevalent crimes on the PSC campus, according to the PSC Department of Public Safety. A total of 39 crimes were reported on the college’s three campuses from July 7 through Oct. 11. Of those, 16 were theft or burglary related.

“They target everything from textbooks to money,” said Assistant Public Safety Director Peggy Smith.

Public Safety Director Hank Shirah added, “The biggest thing we’ve had lately is bicycle thefts.” He speculates the bicycles may be a “target of opportunity” because more students may be riding bikes to school due to high gas prices.

Not all of the campus crimes reported during July-October time period were non-violent, however. Five violent crimes were reported. Those crimes were one stalking, two battery cases, one fight and one case of forcible rape. The rape report was filed on the main campus. Because this is an ongoing investigation, few details are available. However, according to Shirah, the attack happened during daylight hours in an isolated area of a classroom building. He said the victim and suspect were acquainted, and due to other aspects of the case involving off-campus allegations, the case is being handled by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department.

According to, PSC’s safety rating is 93.96 out of a possible 100, placing the college at 121 on a list of 450 of the safest college campuses in the country. The website compiles data on a broad spectrum of information regarding colleges and universities across the country, including campus crime statistics. The list accounts for the severity, as well as the frequency, of campus crime.

Shirah said there are eight sworn officers and 20 non-sworn police officers who patrol the PSC campuses. He said that while these officers are diligent about their patrols and mission to keep students safe, students should be proactive about their personal safety. He offered these tips.

1. Be aware of your surroundings. “We are an open campus and we are adjacent to a shopping mall, so there is a lot of traffic in and around this campus,” Shirah said.

2. Avoid dangerous situations. Avoid isolated areas of campus. Walk in lighted areas and in groups at night.

3. Call the campus police department. “Don’t think an incident, or a feeling, is too insignificant to call. Let us make that decision,” Shirah said. He added, “Put the police department’s phone number on speed dial in your cell phone. It’s 484-2500. That number is answered 24/7.”

4. Lock your car and put your valuables in your trunk. “You walk through the parking lots on campus and see purses, wallets, textbooks, phones, laptops in the seats,” Smith said. “Students make it easy for them.” She added, a thief “will steal your textbook and sell it for a few bucks.”

5. Have your keys ready so you don’t have to search for them when you get to your car. And, added Smith, “don’t be afraid to hit the alarm button on your key ring,” if you are being followed or feel threatened. “It might scare them off.”

Students should become more vigilant as we approach the holidays, according to Shirah. Crime on campus may increase over the next two months, as holiday shopping activity picks up.

“When there is an increase in car break-ins at the mall, we will see an increase on our campus,” Shirah said.

Students, faculty and staff, even parents who want to know what crimes are occurring on campus–and in what numbers–have easy access to that information. The department generates a daily crime log, as mandated by the Jeanne Clery Act. The federal law is named for a 19 year old Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her residence hall. It requires colleges and universities to disclose information regarding campus crime. The PSC report is available upon request at the department, which is located in Building 5.[/two_third]

[one_third_last]Follow these tips to stay safe on campus:
1. Be aware of your surroundings.
2. Avoid isolated areas. Walk in lighted areas and in groups at night.
3. Call the campus police department at 484-2500 if you feel unsafe.
4. Lock your car and put your valuables in your trunk. Never leave valuables unattended.
5. Have your keys ready before leaving a building. [/one_third_last]