University crisis plan to receive finishing touches

The University’s Division of Public Safety will finish forging the way to a safer campus this weekend, one year after the Green Street Halloween threat.

According to a press release from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the Campus Security Enhancement Act last December in response to shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois Universities. The act includes provisions for multiple emergency plans that can be used at Illinois universities. The University received these plans in June of this year, said Todd Short, Director of Emergency Planning for the University’s Division of Public Safety.

The division is restructuring the campus’ emergency operation plan to comply with the requirements and safety policies, he said.

“We went through and basically crossed all of our ‘t’s’ and dotted all of our ‘i’s,'” Short said. “It is a laborious process.”

Short said the plan contains “functional annexes” that call for different groups on campus to create their own emergency plans. Sixty–five buildings on campus, including residence halls and the Illini Union Bookstore, are creating plans for emergencies. A total of around 270 buildings will eventually have emergency plans of action.

Campus safety policies are necessary elements for the University but can be hard to uphold in unpredictable circumstances, said Jeffrey Christensen, Deputy Chief of the campus police department.

“You can do everything possible, and the situation may still occur,” Christensen said.

Although an element of surprise exists with crime, Christensen said the campus police department invests much time to ensure officers are trained for every possible emergency that can occur. He said the department is fortunate to have relations with neighboring agencies such as the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments and the Illinois State Police.

However, some students said they are more preoccupied with robberies and assaults on campus than large-scale threats.

“We have too many crime alerts on this campus,” said Deshondra Strickland, sophomore in AHS. “It’s ridiculous because we pay all this money for tuition, and I feel that we should feel safer on this campus.”

Strickland said it might be smarter to have more police officers walking around campus rather than driving in squad cars.

“Even though I don’t walk around by myself, people that do should feel a lot safer,” Strickland said.

Although Strickland said she is concerned about police action and safety, Christensen said a large part of crime prevention has to do with public cooperation.

“The keystone to crime prevention is to take away the opportunity for a crime to happen,” Christensen said. “Secure your hall door, walk with friends, secure your bicycles properly – anything to prevent something from happening.”

Campus police plan to finish and revise the updated crisis plan in the coming weeks, Short said.

Besides following the plan, Christensen said he advises students and faculty to report any suspicious activity on campus.

“If something is making the hair on the back of your neck stand up, don’t think you can’t call the police — that’s what we’re here for,” Christensen said.