Tennessee State University is among the safest college campuses in the nation, a new report shows. The National Council for Home Safety and Security, in its 2019 report of Safest Colleges in America, lists TSU in the top eight percent of colleges with the lowest crime rate.
The report ranked TSU No. 46 of the 490 colleges rated, using law enforcement and FBI data on crime rate and police adequacy.
“It is extremely important that our students, parents, along with university employees, know they are safe on our campus, and this latest ranking is evident of our commitment to the institution’s public safety,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Campus safety is always a priority and this administration will continue to invest in proactive measures that we believe will also continue to yield even better numbers.”
Over the past three years, TSU has committed millions to upgrading campus safety. This includes increase in police workforce, technology, physical enhancements and crime prevention programs. Officials say fencing of the campus is about 75% complete, the university has added checkpoints with “internal and hard external security,” as well as access-controlled entrances in many of the buildings.
According to Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff, the enhancements are all part of President Glover’s focus and emphasis on campus safety.
“These are all things Dr. Glover values in terms of the safety of our students, faculty, staff and TSU constituents,” Johnson said. “You are now seeing the results of those investments. TSU is a safer campus by any standard.”
TSU Police Chief Greg Robinson, who recently received a prestigious international campus safety award, said the TSU high safety ranking is the result of being proactive and building strong relationships that allow individuals to come forward with information that is beneficial to crime prevention.
“We plan on doing different things with our shift supervisors and building liaison roles with each residence hall, as well as adding more educational classes on prevention with students and the community at large,” Robinson said. “We will continue to depend on the stewards of our community to help us keep up the positive momentum.”
In Tennessee, TSU is also rated ‘extremely high’ among schools that have students living on campus, Robinson said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, comparing figures from 2017 to 2018, reports that across Tennessee overall, crime report is down 15%. Robbery offenses are down 50%. Sex offenses are down 17%. Rape offenses are down 10%.
During that time, Robinson said, TSU saw major improvement.
“We will enhance and expand our current efforts that will allow us to sustain and even surpass the decline,” said Robinson, who received the 2019 International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) Award for Administrative Excellence, during a June ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“We have had record numbers in decline, and we want to keep this downward trend. We also want to keep the crime indicator numbers low but keep TSUPD visibility high so that our students, faculty, staff, and even our visitors know that we want to serve them in the greatest capacity.”
In collaboration with campus police, TSU has also initiated a number of other programs in campus safety and crime prevention that have yielded measurable results. The university now has the only co-ed R.A.D., or Rape Aggressive Defense program. RAD, a self-defense program opened to students, faculty and staff, emphasizes awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance. The 12-hour class is taught over the course of three days in four-hour sessions.
“You can’t always depend on law enforcement to be the first line of defense when it comes to your personal safety,” said Aerin Washington, TSU’s crime prevention officer. “Having a program like this really empowers our community members, as well as our students, faculty and staff to take their personal safety in their own hands. We want to make sure they’re able to defend themselves in any given situation.”
In 2016, TSU and the Nashville Metro Police Department formed what’s believed to be the nation’s first Collegiate Citizens Police Academy. Students in the five-week training program are exposed to various aspects of police work, including domestic violence investigation, and making split-second decisions.
Graduates of the program make up what’s called Tiger Patrol and work in shifts to guide fellow students on campus, or alert the police if a situation warrants it. More than 50 students have participated in the program since its inception about three years ago.
“Tiger Patrol is a very innovative way of allowing students to take part in the safety of the campus,” said Frank Stevenson, associate vice president and dean of students, who is the brainchild of the Collegiate Citizens Police Academy. “Tiger Patrol has been a tremendous success. It allows peer-to-peer interaction, and allows us to hear students’ concerns, and provide information on things around campus that should be brought to the attention of the police department.”
According to Stevenson, many of the graduates of the Tiger Patrol and Citizens Police Academy program have gone on to professional careers in different forms of law enforcement.