Columns, Opinion

Safety awareness on campus

When choosing a college, a main factor all students and guardians must consider is location.

Location is an important factor for college students because it gives us a sense of community. The beautiful University of Central Missouri is located along U.S. Highway 50 between Kansas City and St. Louis, drawing in many students from all over the state and surrounding areas. Warrensburg is considered a safe, small town with friendly people.

However, in recent weeks, social media users have been on high alert after unconfirmed rumors about abductions and terrifying incidents near highways around Missouri. Locals in La Monte, Sedalia and Warrensburg have posted on Facebook and Snapchat warning others to be aware of strange cars harassing drivers and pedestrians on the road, thus causing fear to locals.

As a second-year student, I have seen the rumors create  paranoia in students, especially females. I also have developed a small fear of being alone around campus.

After the Facebook posts went viral, Sedalia and Warrensburg police departments came out with public statements saying they do not have information on incidents about abductions locally. However, they asked that citizens be aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious to the police.

Yessica Ceja, a first-year student, said these stories are frightening.

“Before coming to college, I read all these stories online about girls and students disappearing due to human trafficking or abductions,” she said. “This terrifies me, and it does make me second guess going anywhere alone at night.”

Despite the commotion caused by the rumors on social media, the University of Central Missouri and the Warrensburg Police Department are already one step ahead in trying to keep their college town safe.

Public Safety offers an on-campus police department, created to serve the students, faculty and staff at all hours of the day in case of an emergency. Public Safety also offers other services, including RAD, a women’s self-defense class, alcohol awareness and the Student Assistant Foot Patrol and Escort Team to students.

Chief Scott Rhoad, director of Public Safety, said he recommends that students follow the tips on Public Safety’s webpage. A few tips include:

● Never walk alone at night. Instead, walk with a friend, or call the SAFE Team between 7 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. seven days a week for an escort.

● Walk in well-lit areas at night. Avoid shortcuts through bushes and trees.

● If you think you are being followed, change direction, go to the nearest area where there are other people, or call the police.

Finally, he advised students to just be aware of their surroundings and the importance of downloading the app, CampusEye. CampusEye allows students to privately report a crime and connect with a dispatcher through messages.

Social media has a way of impacting viewers in both positive and negative ways. The paranoia caused by the posts about abductions and human trafficking has reminded communities to come together and spread awareness about safety. However, at the end of the day it is even more important to research facts before going online and reacting to post that may or may not be fact.

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