BY MADDIE TOPLIFF
Des Moines is the largest city in Iowa, and according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, it is also the fastest-growing city in the United States. While that statistic can generate excitement and intrigue, it can also conjure worry, especially when cities tend to be stigmatized by their crime rates.
On Sept. 30, the 2016 Annual Security Report (ASR) and Fire Safety Report (FSR) were released on Drake’s website. Drake University has a legal obligation to generate an ASR in conjunction with an FSR every calendar year in accordance with the Clery Act.
The Clery Act’s namesake is Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old woman who was raped and murdered in her college dormitory in 1986 by a fellow student, according to the Know Your IX website. The federal law mandates colleges to report crimes that occur on campus and to outline school safety policies, typically in an ASR.
In addition to the ASR requirement, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to warn the school community in a timely manner when there is a known risk to campus safety. Furthermore, the act also contains the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which was expanded in 2013 to include all acts of sexual violence.
The 2016 reports for Drake include information on federal crime statistics, the information required by the government, but they also serve the purpose of outlining Drake University’s thorough approach to maximum safety. Details of this approach include, but are not limited to, step-by-step emergency procedures, Drake’s “blue light” phones, Bulldog Alerts and information regarding access to certain buildings on campus.
Scott Law, director of public safety and operational services at Drake, said this thorough report is usual for Drake Public Safety, and they are committed to releasing a consistent and helpful report every year. He said Drake University does “very well” in terms of public safety, especially when comparing statistics to similar campuses, and the university works hard to keep that status.
First-year magazine media major Caitlin Clement said Drake and Des Moines’ commitment to safety helped make the college search easier.
“My parents wanted comfort in knowing that I was going to be safe where I ended up,” Clement said. “Part of the reason they were so for me going to Drake is my brother being here but also that Des Moines in general, since the days my mom was here, has really cleaned up as a city and is continuing to develop even more.”
Law said one of the ways Drake Public Safety works to boast a high level of safety is through community. By being a visible force on campus, being available 24 hours a day and collaborating with the Des Moines police department, Drake Public Safety is able to “fulfill its mission,” Law said.
Although Drake Public Safety evaluates their efforts on a regular basis in order to improve, Law said the Drake community should remember that public safety is optimized when everyone on campus is committed.
“If you see something, say something,” Law said. “Often times, people think they are making too big a deal out of something they have seen or that someone else will report it. The Public Safety Department has 21 sets of eyes. With all of our students, faculty and staff, we have over 5,000 eyes on campus.”
Safety in numbers should also be taken to heart, Law said. Traveling in a group on campus or anywhere else decreases risks of incidents that are harder to avoid when traveling alone. If a student finds him- or herself in a situation where you can’t travel in a group, download the Drake Guardian app, which works similarly to the “blue light” phones found all around campus, Law said.
“I personally have never felt unsafe on campus,” senior Steve Maynard said. “There are times when I have been off-campus, but in the Drake area, at night where I have felt a little unsafe, but … I try to go places with people.”
Marie Nalan, a first-year news major, said that although she isn’t sure if she can ever feel 100 percent safe as a woman on a college campus, she is impressed with the campus safety efforts thus far.