By: Kevin McGuire, Staff Writer
Towson University once again topped the list as the safest school in the University System of Maryland, according to the latest statistics report.
Uniform Crime Reporting, a report published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, compiles official data on crime in the United States. For eight of the past nine years, Towson University has been named the safest campus in the USM.
“We’re very pleased with the numbers,” said TU Police Chief Bernie Gerst. “However, we would love to have zero crimes on campus.”
Specifically, Towson University has the lowest number of Part I crimes per 1,000 students: there were 3.49 crimes per 1,000 students, with University of Maryland, Baltimore County, hitting 5.79 and University of Maryland, College Park, with 9.19 crimes.
Part I crimes are classified as more violent, and range from simple theft to greater crimes like assault, rape, motor vehicle theft or homicide.
Gerst credits the low numbers to doing what a college does best: educating the public.
“It’s hard to educate a college campus, because the community turns over completely every four to five years,” Gerst said. “However, we try to make sure every student is aware of basic safety protocols: locking car doors and residence halls, and protecting their property at all times.”
TUPD uses a multi-faceted approach when it comes to policing campus. The police force works with maintenance and renovations to ensure the campus is safe in ways one might not think of.
“We want to make sure everything maintenance-wise is in order,” Gerst said. “Even something like overgrown shrubs can make it easier for an attacker to conceal themselves.”
Another creative measure by TUPD is their “GOTCHA” program. If an officer spots personal property left in public that would potentially be a target for thieves, the officer will confiscate the equipment, and leave a notice so the property can be picked up later by its owner.
“We are extremely proud of the efforts of everyone in the Towson University community to help keep TU the safest campus in the University System,” said President Kim Schatzel in a statement Friday afternoon. “Keeping our campus safe makes Towson University a better place-a place that is more welcoming and inclusive for all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests.”
Students seemed surprised but pleased to hear that TU had not only earned the title of safest campus in USM, but also that the campus has a record of being one of the safest schools.
“It opens your eyes to how safe our campus truly is,” junior Leia Adomanis said. “It’s calming to know that everyone on campus is doing their part to keep our campus and students safe.”
“I’m very surprised,” senior Sarah Thompson said. “I get updates to my email almost every other day about reports of crimes happening at Towson, so it’s surprising to me that Towson has the fewest.”
While TU has the fewest part I crimes, less serious crimes, like liquor law violations or simple assault, are classified as part II crimes and are not measured by the statistics.
However, Gerst and the TUPD say they treat every crime with timely responses and the utmost professionalism.
“We jump on this stuff as quick as we can,” Gerst said. “We try to identify the criminal as quick as possible and bring him to justice.”
“Towson Police are everywhere and always ready to respond,” senior Phil Marshall said. “Our campus is very well covered.”