Oct 14, 2022
Submitted Photo University Police Chief Brent Isaacson says the campus has “not seen an uptick in crime.”
A mandatory yearly safety report compiled by University Police at the State University of New York at Fredonia shows the campus maintains an extremely safe environment.
University Police statistics submitted in the annual Campus Safety Report note the number of arrests for all crimes is exceptionally low. Yearly Uniform Crime Reporting data that University Police submit to the FBI and the U.S. Department of Education shows nearly zero crime rates yearly.
“SUNY Fredonia’s crime rate is close to zero, especially for violent crime,” said University Police Chief Brent Isaacson. “Compared to any village/town/city around the country, SUNY Fredonia is among the safest places to live and work.
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We have not seen an uptick in crime that has occurred in many other areas. If we scaled our campus population to the size of a city, it would easily be the safest city in the country.”
The Clery Act mandates that institutions receiving Title IV federal funds disseminate crime statistics for certain serious offenses that occurred on campus and in adjacent areas for the current and previous two calendar years.
News of the report from the university comes a little more than a week after safety concerns were briefly mentioned by a College Council member at a meeting this month.
“I am pleased with the latest safety report submitted by University Police,” said SUNY Fredonia President Dr. Stephen H. Kolison Jr. “While we continue to strive for a campus completely free of any incidents, the data shows not only effective community policing by University Police, but also that our efforts during student orientation, and our deterrent capabilities combined with other programming throughout the year, are manifestations of our commitment to a safe environment for everyone. We will continue to maintain a vigilant posture against anything that threatens to undermine the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campus.”
The Clery Act also mandates campuses issue “timely warnings” whenever there is an ongoing risk to the campus community posed by criminal activity. The purpose is to aid in the prevention of similar crimes.
“The Fredonia College Council supports the university and UPD in their efforts to make Fredonia one of the safest campuses in the SUNY system,” said Fredonia College Council Chair Frank Pagano. “I am proud of the work being done in all areas across campus to emphasize student safety.”
In the past three-and-a-half years, on only two occasions had there been a need for UPD to issue such timely warnings. The first was in October 2021 for an assault on campus, solved by UPD using its extensive security camera system. A person not connected to campus was arrested and convicted. The other was around May for criminal trespassing.
UPD identified the likely suspect and interviewed him. Eyewitnesses could not provide a positive identification, so the suspect was not charged. He was ordered to stay off campus. Both of these cases were addressed by University Police, and Isaacson said there is a very low likelihood of these suspects reoffending on campus.
“Imagine a city where in 3.5 years, the police put the population on notice twice for crimes in which no one was hurt,” he said. “It underscores how safe the Fredonia campus is.”
The security cameras used in the two “timely warning” incidents are among the 250 high resolution security cameras across campus. “If that density of cameras existed throughout Chautauqua County, there would be nearly a million security cameras in our county,” Isaacson said. Additionally, fully functional Blue Light phones are visible from nearly all outdoor locations on campus. They serve as a comforting reminder to campus community members that police are always close by and a fast and easy way to contact police.
Along with technology and a fully accredited professional police department, SUNY Fredonia also employs several strategies around programming for students as soon as they arrive on campus. All first-year students are required to complete mandatory training regarding sexual violence, how to report incidents, how to help others, and the resources available. There are also in-depth workshops on preventing violence on campus in all first-year residence halls.
University Police also provide the campus community with detailed presentations on recognizing and reporting concerning behaviors that may indicate a person is contemplating or planning to commit an act of targeted violence on campus. Students, residence hall staff members, and faculty are given these presentations with the expectation that observers of concerning behavior will be motivated and empowered to report their concerns to campus authorities to be addressed. People are taught how to be “up-standers” who recognize and report concerning behaviors, not bystanders who don’t report or intervene when they observe behaviors that precede violence.
“The university is committed to fostering a safe campus environment,” said Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Stenger. “All members of the university community are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of others. The campus prioritizes student wellness and safety through its Counseling Center and Students of Concern Team, both of which develop helpful interventions for students who need mental health support.”
Other recent efforts have improved the safety posture on campus. The mass notification speaker system recently received extensive upgrades. UPD officers have been equipped with body-worn cameras to aid in evidence collection during criminal investigations and use of force incidents, and to provide transparency and accountability for all police/citizen interactions. In recent months, Fredonia has geo-mapped every building on campus into the Chautauqua County 911 Center, allowing police officers from outside agencies to navigate themselves to any on-campus emergency quickly.
The strategy is essential to ensure a hasty response for officers unfamiliar with the campus. SUNY Fredonia’s UPD maintains close working relationships with neighboring partner law enforcement agencies, and shares law enforcement information developed in criminal investigations.
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