Local officials assure security

Security officers comfort a colleague after a gunman went on a shooting rampage at Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 13. The Associated Press

Security officers comfort a colleague after a gunman went on a shooting rampage at Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 13. The Associated Press

By Patrick Wade

In the wake of two shootings on college campuses, University emergency officials are reassuring students that the Illinois campus is one of the safest in the nation.

On Sept. 13, 25-year-old Kimveer Gill opened fire on Dawson College in Montreal, the Associated Press reported. Two were killed, including the gunman, and 19 were wounded.

Even more recently on Sept. 17, five Duquesne University basketball players were shot and wounded during a school dance.

“These things are hard to predict,” said Jeffrey Christensen, University assistant chief of police.

However, Christensen said the department trains with both Urbana and Champaign police departments to prepare in the event an attack were to occur on University grounds.

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“Patrol officers are trained as almost a mini-SWAT team, so they have the resources to stop an attack,” he said.

Lt. Vernon “Skip” Frost of University police said that the department’s philosophy is to be attuned to the community, and to attempt to stop attacks before they happen. Frost urges students to inform the authorities if they ever receive information about a possible attack.

The department sponsors many community outreach programs to educate students and employees about campus safety, as well as participating in the Crimestoppers program, a hotline that anyone can call to anonymously tip off authorities.

The University has previously dealt with sensitive situations. In 1997, Benjamin Smith, a student, withdrew from the University because of a number of arrests and criminal charges. The University required him to sign an agreement to not return to the University. On the weekend of July 4, 1999, Smith went on a shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana targeting members of racial and ethnic minorities before killing himself, according to a New York Times article.

Fitzpatrick said aggravated assaults, batteries and other crimes against the person have decreased over the past year. The last murder on University owned grounds was in 1995.

“I’m truly impressed with University police skills,” said Ruth McCauley, University associate dean of students.

McCauley said that the Emergency Dean’s office has had someone on call for 36 straight years to help control the effects of any emergency situation.

Garrett Rausch, freshman in Engineering, said he accepts the fact that he can never be 100 percent safe.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind (an attack) could happen,” Rausch said. “It’s kind of a risk you have to take.”

But even though an attack could happen, Frost said that students have other bigger things to worry about.

“You are more likely to be killed in a vehicle or pedestrian accident, than to be victimized by an attacker,” he said.