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Campus safety walk postponed until spring

December 4, 2009

UW-River Falls students, faculty and staff gather together once a year in order to assess issues on campus on the annual Campus Safety Walk. The safety walk was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening, but has been postponed until spring semester because of “conflicts in available time,” according to Richard Trende, chief of police.

“Usually [the walk] has been held in the fall, but we’ve also held it in the spring,” Trende said. “I really don’t believe [the change in scheduling] will have an impact on campus safety. Many of the proposed projects have been completed.” Connie Smith, risk manager, agrees with Trende about the time of year in which the safety walk is scheduled.

“I do not feel that the time of year that [the walk] is done matters. In my opinion, it would be good to do [the walk] in the daytime and at night to get a feel for the conditions under both scenarios,” Smith said.

Participants of the walk split into three groups to take a walking tour of the south, east and west side of campus, Smith said. She said some of the issues observed by participants are the condition of sidewalks, shrubbery close to buildings or walkways, overhead lighting, adequate lighting, blue light operation, trip hazards and accessibility issues.

There have been past concerns over the environment of the pathways, especially after a UWRF student was the victim of sexual battery in November 2006 on the path from the Ramer Field parking lot to the main campus.

According to UWRF Public Safety reports, the female student was walking to campus when an individual jumped out of a wooded area. The safety walk works to ensure adequate lighting in shaded areas and reduce the obstruction of overgrown vegetation along pathways.

“The trail to [Ramer field] could be creepy at night,” Carey Field, a graduating student who grew up in the River Falls area, said. She said overall she’s always felt safe growing up in River Falls.

According to the UWRF Police and Parking Web site, there are safety programs for those who are interested like the Safewalk Program, which attempts to provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere to the students, faculty and other staff of the University community who do not wish to walk alone on campus during the evening hours. Another safety area voiced by Chelsea Kelly, a senior majoring in art, is the courtyard by the art area where she said bikes had been stolen.

The November 2007 safety walk brought about concerns such as burned out street lights and overgrown vegetation, but the most problematic issue was the condition of the emergency call phones, where four out of five emergency phones tested on the East side of campus were malfunctioning, according to a past Student Voice article.

The campus currently has 20 emergency call phones located throughout the campus, often referred to as the “blue phone.” These phones have a direct link to Pierce County Sheriff’s dispatch center, according to the UWRF Public Safety Web site.

Some suggestions offered at the 2007 safety walk were improving crosswalks by repainting pedestrian crossings, trimming overgrown bushes and installing new technology alerting drivers of pedestrians when using the crosswalks.

Last year’s safety walk, held in November 2008, observed somewhat similar problems such as inadequate lighting, overgrown vegetation, poor sidewalk conditions, crosswalk paint and “blue phone” response.

According to the 2008 safety walk report, when pressing the blue lights it takes three to four minutes for security to respond (depending on urgency) and sometimes, despite urgency, it will take a little while for security to arrive at the scene because of where they are, who answers the phone and who’s on duty.

Some current campus improvements include the clearing of foliage and overgrowth from the back path to Ramer field, the back bridge and the space around South Fork and fixing inadequate lighting such as the parking lot by Crabtree. Trende said the purpose of the yearly walk is to address areas on campus that could be improved.