A dark figure walks between cars, a hood obscures his face.
As he passes, he tries door handles but finds them all locked. After a few cars, the door opens. Jackpot! He swiftly grabs a laptop and walks off; no one is the wiser. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario. RIT is a generally safe campus, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk — especially when you create the risk yourself. However, there are provisions you can take to make yourself safer, so this nightmare doesn’t become your reality.
Is RIT a Dangerous Place?
“Honestly, my feeling is this is a very safe campus,” said Rod Lezette, assistant director and investigator for Public Safety. His feelings are validated by Public Safety’s 2009 “Safety & Security Report,” which only cited five cases of aggravated assault with no murders or robberies on campus in 2008. Compared with the FBI’s 2008 data stating 2,302 cases of violent crime for all of Rochester, that number is extremely low. There were, however, 22 burglaries and seven vehicle thefts, and compared to Rochester’s 11,130 property crimes, that still seems pretty good. Nevertheless, Lezette feels that almost all crime on campus is preventable. “Our biggest concern, and I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face, is that people need to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and their property,” Lezette said.
There are many ways to defend yourself in an event of a crime, but carrying a weapon isn’t one of them. Although the New York State Penal Law states that you are allowed to carry pepper spray, weapons such as clubs, firearms, Tasers, stun guns, metal or plastic knuckles, any knife with a blade measuring over three inches, switchblades of any size, and even wrist-mounted slingshots are all illegal. Possession of any of these in Rochester merits a misdemeanor.
RIT’s ground rules are even stricter. According to NY State Penal Law 265.06 (Unlawful Possession Of A Weapon Upon School Grounds), it is also illegal to “possess any airgun, spring gun or other instrument or weapon in which the propelling force is a spring, air, piston or CO2 cartridge.” This includes Airsoft and paintball guns.
However, Lezette doesn’t feel that any of this should even be necessary. “We don’t ever condone or tell people to carry weapons,” said Lezette. This includes pepper spray. “I’ve had people call me and ask if pepper spray is legal to carry on campus. I tell them not to carry it. I don’t think it’s necessary on this campus,” said Lezette. The best way to protect yourself on campus, according to Public Safety, is to lock your doors, store your valuables, and stay in groups at night. “The biggest issue we see on campus is either unsecured property, unsecured rooms, even referring to vehicles, leaving things out in plain view,” said Lezette.
If you have a bicycle, make sure to get a strong lock to secure it. Lezette also recommends registering the bike in the National Bike Registry, which can be done through Public Safety’s website. That way, if it does get stolen, it can still be returned to you if recovered.
Advice for those living off campus is more or less the same. “We always recommend you go in groups, be aware of where you are, be aware of your surroundings,” said Lezette. He also recommends letting someone know where you’re going and keeping a cell phone on you at all times.
Public Safety: Chivalry Isn’t Dead
Public Safety officers do regular light surveys to guarantee that RIT doesn’t turn into a series of dark alleys. However, if you’re still uncomfortable walking home alone at night, they offer an escort service. All you have to do is call Public Safety at 585.475.2853 to let them know you want an escort and they’ll send someone out to walk you home. Additionally, there are various Blue Light/Emergency phones that act as a direct line to Public Safety scattered around campus.
Finally, if you do find yourself as the victim of a crime (even off campus), Public Safety does have victim advocacy services to help. They’ll help you through the process, and they can even arrange transport and escort services to and from court if needed.
Prevention is Better than a Cure
Public Safety relies heavily on the RIT community to help stop and catch criminals. “We honestly believe that it’s not our students [who] are breaking into the cars. We believe it’s a county wide problem,” Lezette said. “Until we’re able to catch them in the act, we’re not going to know.” Another thing Lezette recommends is to take a look at Public Safety’s Media Log. It’s a regularly updated record of all crimes reported on campus and can be found in the lobby of the Public Safety office. Alternatively, Public Safety posts Crime Alerts on their web page. Checking those regularly and responding with any information you have would help them greatly.
Public Safety offers these services to keep students safe, but it is up to the students to take advantage of them. Protecting yourself seems simple enough, but no one’s going to do it for you. Play it smart and hopefully you’ll never have to speak to Public Safety during your stay at RIT. And remember: Above all, lock your doors.