Local universities, junior college vigilant on campus security

Students at FAMU know where to go to get answers to security questions.
Photo by Alexis Thornton
Security cameras are ever present around FAMU’s campus.
Photo by Alexis Thornton

By Alexis Thornton
Special to the Outlook

As debate rage on about a proposed open-carry law in Florida, and concerns grow over a recent uptick in shootings on campuses around the country, Tallahassee’s two universities and junior college report having vigilant measures in place to protect students.

However, students have expressed mixed reactions to what they know about measures for their safety on campus. Enrollment at Florida A&M, Florida State and Tallahassee Community College total more than 80,000.

The local college students’ concerns are in line with the results of a national survey by BestColleges that shows 56 percent of 1,000 people interviewed are worried about campus security.

A recent spate of shootings on college campuses around the country has sparked concern about security, while renewing the argument for more transparent measures. Those concerns surfaced after the most recent mass shooting occurred at Michigan State University, where 43-year-old Anthony McRae was identified as the man who fatally shot three students and injured five others.

More than half of the students in the BestCollege surveyed listed shootings on campus is their main safety concern.

Meanwhile, FAMU, FSU and TCC have installed security cameras along with emergency telephones with blue lights throughout their campuses, security authorities said. 

FSU responded to questions about its safety measure with a prepared statement.

“Florida State University police and emergency personnel regularly train and prepare for active shooters on campus,” the statement said. “In the event of a shooter on campus, FSU police and local law enforcement agencies will respond immediately, and the FSU Alert system will be activated to notify all enrolled students, faculty, staff, and visitors of a dangerous situation occurring on campus.”

In addition to the blue lights that are intended to trigger an emergency, FSU has also added the use of a keyless entry systems for buildings used by students on campus. The university also uses a video on its website to inform students about their safety.

Melissa Callea, a double-major student at FSU, would like to see more.

“To improve safety they could use some sort of real time crime map or something along those lines that regularly updates and could be checked whenever,” Callea said. “The blue light emergency phones are a great thing to have on campus, especially for women in order to feel secure and safe when walking on or around campus alone, especially at night when we have places to go on campus.” 

Some of the measures that FSU has put in place came after a gunman opened fire at the entrance of Strozier Library, injuring three students. The gunman was later shot by campus law enforcement officers, authorities said, following the late-night shooting in the fall of 2014.

Campus security at FAMU and FSU recently made headlines. FAMU has not responded to numerous attempts to get updated security information.

Late last year, a mass shooting outside the Tookes Student Recreation Center, left one person dead and four people injured. As recent as this past January, 19-year-old Sean Michael Albert was arrested for threatening to kill gay people in a mass shooting at FSU.

Albert, who made the threat on social media, is being detained in Orlando until his trial. In the FAMU incident, two 21-year-old men — Chedderick Thomas and Da’Vhon Young Jr. – were also arrested for the shooting on charges of first-degree homicide and four counts of attempted homicide.

The two incidents seemingly have shaken students.

“I feel like a way to improve the relationship between the campus security and the students to feel safe, the campus security should be more present,” said Arie Riley, a broadcast journalism student at FAMU. “I don’t really see security but I mainly always see their cars around and I don’t really interact with them as much as I would like to.”

It has been almost nine years since concern about the presence of a gunman on campus caused alarm among students at TCC. In 2014, the campus was shut down for hours after a man told TCC Police Department that he was chased by a man brandishing a gun.

The campus was reopened after law enforcement officers didn’t find a suspect, following hours of combing the area by air and land.

If there is ever such a real threat, TCC is prepared to respond, said Wesley Hardin, chief of TCC Police Department.

“We do have crisis response in place for a variety of situations, including an active shooter,” Hardin said. “Response plans include single-officer and team response, as well as assistance for local and state law enforcement partners.” 

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