Rutgers recognizes Campus Safety Awareness Month with self-defense training and resource fair at The Yard
The RUPD spoke about their resources, which include security escorts, text alerts and more
September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and Rutgers Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships have dedicated a week to spreading awareness and advice on staying safe around campus.
One of the events held on Wednesday was "Knights' Watch Academy" at The Yard, which featured a resource fair from 1 to 5 p.m. and a self-defense training program from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) had representatives at the resource fair, as did Rutgers Emergency Medical Services. Both organizations are part of the larger Division of Public Safety, which handles issues like crime, fire and medical emergencies on campus.
The RUPD gave out flyers featuring the department’s services, including their "Security Escorts" service. Escorts can walk with students to their cars, dorms or to a bus stop should they ever feel unsafe on campus. This is in addition to the Knight Mover, which provides students with transportation when the regular buses are not running.
The department also gave out red stress balls shaped like bottles of pepper spray.
“We’re doing a good thing here for the students,” Lt. Manuel Simoes of Patrol Operations said in reference to the Knights' Watch Academy. “Public safety on campus is a very invaluable tool.”
Simoes said that Rutgers students can text the RUPD with any non-urgent concerns as well.
"(RUPD) is somewhere safe for (students) to come if they’re having issues or problems, or if there’s some sort of criminal action they can report it directly to us,” Simoes said.
The RUPD has also partnered with a service called Nixle, which allows students to sign up to receive text alerts from the department to keep them aware of any threats to public safety on campus.
“We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the whole Rutgers community,” he said.
Later in the evening, Simoes and other officers taught basic self-defense skills to students at The Yard.
The officers held foam pads for volunteers to hit while Simoes explained the proper form and techniques to use in a violent confrontation with a real-life attacker.
“Punch a cop! You won’t get in trouble today!” he said as he asked students to come forward. “Today only!”
One student who volunteered was Ashley Purvis, a School of Arts of Sciences junior.
“It was definitely interesting and definitely informative,” she said of the experience. “I didn’t think that I would actually learn anything from it and I did. I learned that you absolutely have to keep eye contact on your attacker. If not, they can get you.”
Purvis said that although it was scary having everyone in The Yard watching her, she did have fun.
Self-defense is a useful skill to have considering the University’s non-negligible crime rate. Common crimes at Rutgers include sexual assault, with 23 cases of rape and 8 cases of fondling in 2016, domestic violence with 84 cases in 2016, burglaries —26 cases in 2016 — and drug-related offenses —172 arrests and 129 referrals in 2016 — according to the RUPD’s crime statistics.
The RUPD also offers R.A.D., or Rape Aggression Defense training, throughout the year for female students who want to learn more about self-defense.
“It’s really about raising people’s awarenesses that we’re all part of the solution and creating a community that is safe,” said Director of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships Kerri Willson in reference to Campus Safety Awareness Week and the Knight’s Watch Academy.
Willson said that it is especially important to be aware of your surroundings when walking on and off campus, not to walk around on your phone with headphones on, to lock your door and not to leave your belongings unattended in public spaces like Student Centers. She also said that it is important to look out for your friends and to report suspicious activity.
“All of us, faculty, staff and students are part of creating an atmosphere where we’re caring about one another," Willson said.