BAKER REPORT: Safety key to thriving communities
Greetings from Chicago!
This morning I was in the city giving a radio interview to Craig Dellimore for his Sunday public affairs program, “At Issue,” on WBBM-AM 780. On Thursday, I appeared live on WGN-AM 720 as part of Steve Cochran’s mini-series about higher education. Among the many topics I discussed with both was the issue of campus safety.
Providing a safe and secure campus and community atmosphere so that research, academic and social pursuits can thrive is the most important function of NIU Police and Public Safety. This topic has been discussed in the many workshops we’ve held on campus since I began in July, and is one of the keys to building thriving communities.
When I first arrived on campus, I examined the crime data on our campus and compared it with other institutions in our state. What I found is that crime levels at NIU are average or below average in terms of crime compared to other public four-year colleges. In this case, the public perception does not correlate with the reality presented in the statistical data.
That said, no community is immune from crime, and we all have responsibility in creating a safe, secure environment on campus and in the community.
This summer NIU hired a new police chief. Tom Phillips has nearly two decades of community policing experience in a campus environment at both UIC and University of Chicago, and he has been working closely with City of DeKalb law enforcement to promote public safety. NIU has just invested $2 million to purchase inter-operable radio systems that allow close communications with other local law enforcement agencies. I'd like to thank Bill Nicklas, vice president of Public Safety and Community Relations, for his leadership in substantially improving our community law enforcement relations. This new co-policing effort is already producing positive results and will continue as cooperation grows.
Eric Weldy, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, joined the NIU leadership team in July and has been able to provide new perspectives and ideas about enhancing campus safety. He has worked closely with Chief Phillips and the NIU Student Association on initiatives involving our student body. NIU has very strong student programs and services available to provide a safe and healthy campus and learning environment, one that challenges and inspires students to be academically and personally successful.
We've also been reviewing our notification protocols in the event of an incident that impacts our NIU community. The new campus emergency notification system includes a redundant set of communications options such as email, social media and text messaging. We will be using some or all of these options to advise students, faculty and staff of important safety-related information in a timely manner.
NIU has two levels of safety notification: safety bulletin advisories and emergency alerts. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to follow NIU Safety Bulletins on Facebook and Twitter.
I appreciate the discussion around this important topic; it is a much-needed dialogue that must involve our entire community. While there is a low incidence of crimes against persons at NIU, please continue to use good judgment and act responsibly. Be aware of your surroundings and live the Northern PACT. As Huskies, continue to look out for each other and make good, responsible choices.