The University of Connecticut has many programs and protocols in place to address crime on campus that encourage students and UConn community members to play an active role in campus safety, according to the UConn Police Department.
Students may report a crime by calling the UConn police station, dialing 911 or using one of the approximately 300 Blue Light phones for emergencies.
“If there was some type of emergency, the phone’s there,” UCPD Deputy Chief Andrew Fournier said. “With the advent of smartphones, we don’t see as much use out of [the Blue Lights], but I think the fact that we still have them and they are still visible, makes them effective.”
Fournier said one of the best things students can do to be proactive about preventing crime is to report unusual activity to the police.
“In terms of general safety… anything you think is out of the ordinary, give us a call, let us take a look at it from our vantage point and see if there’s anything else going on. We try to encourage people to be active partners in public safety,” Fournier said.
UCPD will be looking to increase its use of cameras around campus as a tool in investigating and preventing crime, Fournier said.
“It’s a force multiplier beyond our officers. It allows much more attention to different areas of campus that could be potential areas of criminal activity,” Fournier said. “Cameras have been proven [to be] instrumental in helping solve crimes, and also in preventing them.”
The UConn Police Department seeks to promote a cooperative and communicative relationship with the university community through Community Outreach, Fournier said.
“[Community Outreach] partners with a lot of resources around campus to help them understand that we are here, we’re available,” Fournier said. “We like to provide our community partners with a name and a face, a direct contact within the police department in hopes that people will feel more comfortable reporting to us.”
The Community Outreach program provides training in active threat response, drug and alcohol awareness, workplace safety and several other programs. They also offer customizable programming by request.
One community outreach program, Safety Technique Awareness Resource Team (START), consists of programs directed towards the goal of preventing sexual and domestic violence, the UConn Public Safety website said.
The program holds female and male self-defense classes as well as programs focused on sexual assault prevention and intervention including educational programs whose goals are to START a conversation about issues such as sexual predation, rape drugs and domestic violence.
The 2015 Annual Security and Fire Report, released each year in compliance with the national Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities that receive public funding to issue an annual security report, shows there were 38 cases of rape reported at the Storrs campus — 18 of which occurred on campus — 45 cases of domestic violence, six cases of hate crimes and 26 cases of stalking reported in 2015.
In addition to hate crimes, there were numerous bias-related incidents on campus which are similar to hate crimes, but do not fall under the same legal classification due to the nuanced details of the incident.
UCPD has its own Special Victims Unit comprised of four to seven officers who are specially trained to handle and investigate sexual assault claims.
“They receive specific training so they can assist victims in the best way possible,” Fournier said. “A lot of the training they receive is how to deal with the victim-centered approach on these investigations.”
Survivors of sexual assault may find help through Student Health Services, Counseling and Mental Health Services or the Stronger Support Group, all of which are confidential resources.
UConn Support Services, the Dean of Students Office, The Department of Residential Life and the UConn Women’s Center are also resources for survivors that are required to report claims of sexual assault to the Office of Institutional Equity.
In addition to the training on sexual assault incoming freshmen receive, upperclassman are now required to complete an online learning module called Not Anymore.
“We wanted to cover some content areas that perhaps we don’t have the opportunity to do as much with in those early preventative efforts, particularly relationship dating and domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking,” Lauren Donais, the Violence Against Women Prevention Program coordinator, said. “Certainly those things are covered in orientation, but these modules really help take a deeper dive.”
UCPD developed a protocol for reporting bias-related incidents, for which it won an award in 2015.
Fournier said he wants incoming students to understand that the UCPD is a police force dedicated solely to UConn, a feature that makes it markedly different from most colleges, which rely upon area police for campus safety.
“We’re here for the community, it’s a very densely-populated area and incoming freshman should know that we’re within minutes of where they are,” Fournier said.