The Yik Yak application has been used to post harmful threats to universities across the country. This past year there were two threats on the social media directed towards Southern Miss’ campus – Susan Broadbridge
From iTech stalkers and students posting ambiguous threats to social media sites, to car theft and stolen phones in the Payne and Fresh, many ponder the safety of USM’s campus.
Despite the multiple acts of crime that have occurred at USM and within Hattiesburg this past year, statistics show that the campus is one of the safest in the nation.
The University of Southern Mississippi has an excellent overall crime rating, according to College Factual. The overall crime rating is based on reported crime on campus and in surrounding areas. Colleges with low amounts of reported crime are valued as being safer.
“The University of Southern Mississippi earns an overall crime rating of A+ when we compare reported on-campus, city and regional crime against all other schools nationwide,” College Factual reported.
The site said Southern Miss has good crime ratings with respect to on-campus violence and theft: 46.7 percent burglary, 26.7 percent aggravated assault, 20 percent motor vehicle theft and 6.6 percent crime related to forcible sexual assault.
“I feel safe on campus sometimes, but not all of the time,” said Coretta Talbert, a senior speech pathology major.
“I feel safe during the day, but not so much at night. Especially walking from Hillcrest, because I know of people who have been robbed or mugged there. At least I can call for an escort late at night if I need to,” Talbert said.
The University Police Department’s webpage offers resources to students, faculty and staff. Students can report crimes, call for a campus escort and take online surveys to better secure USM’s campus.
“I don’t feel completely safe because this is an open campus, and anyone can come during the day or night without being noticed,” said Anesha Handshaw, a junior nursing major and desk assistant at Southern Miss.
“I feel that the residence life at USM is safe to an extent,” Handshaw said.
“When the automatic doors in different residence halls stay open, it gives intruders a chance to walk in. I feel that Desk Assistants make dorm life safer because we make sure that only residents and approved guests are being checked into dorms. UPD plays a significant role because we have to call them in unsafe situations to resolve issues.”
“I think that in regards to our compliance, requirements and being proactive toward what the campus community we are providing above what is needed to assist the campus in having a safe environment,” UPD’s Chief of Police Bob Hopkins said.
“It is important to remember that it is not just our responsibility, but it’s also important for (students) to be proactive in the decisions and choices that they make.”
He also said students should take necessary precautions to ensure they do not become victims of crime.
Hopkins said students should be aware that valuables are not visible when parking their cars and to always lock car and dorm room doors. He also reminds students to be safe when off campus such as parking in a lighted area when shopping.
“Eagle Alert subscriptions are automatic now because we didn’t see a lot of participation. This way we make sure that everyone has the opportunity to receive messages,” Hopkins said.
“Every once in a while we send a message in the morning and get a response saying ‘You woke me up. It wasn’t that important,’” he said.
“Our compliance responsibility to the Clarity Act gives us strict guidelines on what we have to do, when we have to do it and how quickly we have to do it. That’s to give the campus community information to help them make good choices in regards to being more careful throughout their day.”
In the end, Hopkins is satisfied with Eagle Alert and hopes USM students will use it to stay safe.
“I feel that the purpose is served and the information is shared. We hope that it’s taken as us sharing with them something that will keep them safe,” Hopkins said.