After several notable crimes on and around the LSU campus this semester, LSU sophomore Jake Weber said he felt he had to act.
Weber, a third-year math student, organized a safety forum where Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and Metro Council Member Carolyn Coleman met with members of the Baton Rouge Police Department, the LSU Police Department and LSU officials Monday night to discuss campus safety to speak.
Shortly after the semester began, a man was shot dead in an armed robbery outside West Laville Hall. Then, on September 16, Allison Rice, a senior at LSU, was fatally shot multiple times in her car on Government Street; While the shooting occurred off campus, it rocked the LSU community and sparked citywide outrage over violence.
At least two rapes were reported in on-campus shelters, one on September 3 and one on October 9.
The city and school leaders spoke about their plans to improve safety on the LSU campus — and what their agencies have already done.
At Monday’s meeting, university and police leaders gave details of their plans to increase security on campus.
LSU Police Department Chief Bart Thompson said the university plans to install new surveillance cameras as early as this week.
“We are in the process of adding more cameras as the cameras are now equipped with the new technology,” he said. “Rather than looking at one thing, you can set up a camera and look at all four ways to capture that.”
Thompson said there are currently over 1,700 cameras installed across campus.
Kimberly Lewis, LSU’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said the university is also in the process of upgrading the campus and adding lights to brighten areas that get too dark at night.
Lewis identified high-density areas on campus such as commuter parking lots, residential areas and classrooms as priorities for the new lighting that will be targeted first.
About 25 temporary purple light pendants have been distributed across campus, Lewis said, until permanent lighting can be installed.
“All permanent lighting work will be completed by the summer of 2023,” she said. “Improving lighting around campus is important, and increasing our police force is important. We want to make sure all students are safe.”
According to Thompson, brighter lights installed near Nicholson Gateway, the university’s recreational facility and the College of Engineering, have helped pave the way for receiving federal funding for better lighting around campus.
“It’s a government-funded lighting program that helped us get a shot in the arm to move forward,” he said. “The student council had just logged their lighting and they basically said they can’t wait.”
As part of the panel discussion, Baton Rouge Deputy Police Commissioner Myron Daniels spoke about how improved technology, such as lighting and camera upgrades, can help law enforcement officers support the LSU police force.
“LSU is just like the rest of Baton Rouge, we don’t leave everything to this police department and we do everything we can to support them,” he said. “And so some of the technology that you’ve already heard about from the crime cameras to the license plate readers that we’re installing, those are all things that help.”
Weber said finding the right channels of communication can be difficult as a student and asked where students should get accurate and important safety information.
“Sometimes it is difficult to know where this news is coming from. I love the alerts that go out when I hear there’s something going on at Highland or the restaurant, that’s great for getting hold of,” he said. “I’m just trying to be aware of these things, and I’m finding it a little difficult.”
Thompson recommended that students download the LSU SHIELD app, which allows students to dial 911, message anonymously, and file police reports from their phones.
“What we like about it is that when you press the emergency button, it tells us what building you are in, what floor you are on and what room you are in, and we can come,” he said.
Thompson said the primary line of communication for campus safety is between students and the police.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, who was a guest during the safety forum, said students have a responsibility to do their part to communicate how they would like safety issues addressed.
“The safety of our college communities, which is a certain part of our community, is a top priority,” she said. “…I believe when we talk specifically about the universities, your feedback is vitally important as we continue to design for college campus security.”