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Lawmakers get update on campus security efforts across the state

(Photo Credit: Silas Walker, Deseret News)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Are kids safe on college campuses?  That issue is being tackled at the state capitol as higher education officials are called to prove they’re keeping up with newly passed campus safety laws.

Since SB 134 was passed, officials with the Board of Regents say colleges all over the state have been taking steps to ensure students are safe and to ensure schools are keeping up with state demands.  For instance, Utah Valley University has implemented monthly coordination meetings with their safety officials.  Plus, other schools have created more support groups for victims, and most schools are adopting some sort of lethality assessment protocols for officers looking into possible cases of domestic violence.

However, Spencer Jenkins with the board says it may be tricky to create one blanket policy that would be effective for every school.

“Snow College’s efforts in campus safety may look a lot different than at the University of Utah or Weber State University,” Jenkins says.

University of Utah officials say the process of improving campus security is one that will never be truly finished, as they will always need to adopt new policies and find ways to strengthen their weaknesses.  Chief Human Resource Officer Jeff Herring says they’ve begun work on 68 of the 69 improvements they were told to make after the murder of Lauren McCluskey last year.  Herring says they’ve boosted the number of campus courtesy escorts, and their response times are a lot better.

He says, “In the past, those [took] about 20 minutes, but, now we have 24/7 courtesy escorts for anyone on campus and it’s down to seven minutes, now.  So, that’s a fairly good response time.”

The University has also created a new ridesharing program for students who don’t want to walk when they don’t feel safe.

“It’s, kind of, an Uber for campus.  [We have] all licensed and background-checked drivers,” according to Herring.

However, Representative Angela Romero says it’s going to take more than just increased lighting and more escorts to truly improve student safety.  She aims to find ways to find signs of abuse and prevent assaults from happening in the first place.

“We can talk about campus safety and we can talk about all of these other things, but are we doing as more preventative work?  I don’t think lights work, personally,” Romero says.

One thing she supports is mandatory training that could help students spot the signs of a possible abusive relationship.  She believes this kind of training needs to happen long before someone enrolls in college.

“We should be doing this in junior high and high schools,” she says.