Promoting student safety

GVPD encourages community members to be active bystanders

By Hannah Lentz | 9/14/16 9:21pm

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GVL / Kevin Sielaff Grand Rapids' annual ArtPrize is held from Sept. 23 - Oct. 1 at various locations around the city.

by Kevin Sielaff / Grand Valley Lanthorn

Picking a college is a hard decision. A potential student must weigh the aspects of cost of attendance, campus culture and area of focus. For many students, this is also the first time they will be living away from home, which brings up the concern of campus safety.

In a 2016 study, Grand Rapids was named the third safest college town in the U.S. by the SafeWise Report. As Grand Valley State University is located in the greater Grand Rapids area, this focus on student safety is one that hits home for the Grand Valley Police Department.

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"We want to create an alert and aware campus," said GVPD Capt. Brandon DeHaan. "We want to ensure that our community feels comfortable and accounted for when it comes to their safety."

One way GVPD is working to achieve this is by following a risk-reducing manual that looks at creating answerable and informed students as well as a welcoming community environment that promotes transparency and responsibility, DeHaan said.

"We want to create a community where if a student, staff of faculty member notices something, they report this to us so we can take action," DeHaan said.

This method of reporting is enforced through a set of guidelines that include: bystander intervention, responsibility for one's self and responsibility for one's community. These rules suggest members of the GVSU community are alert and aware -- paying close attention to the things around them -- and making intelligent decisions that do not harm the overall wellbeing of the campus.

"We want students to recognize all that goes into safety and security measures for everyone," DeHaan said. "We do our best to be very present on campus and we want to inform the community of our commitment to them, as well as their responsibility as part of our community."

In light of the recent campus safety alerts sent out to the GVSU community, GVPD is aware and conscious of the fact that things are not perfect. It is hoped that through collaboration and cooperation the GVSU community can come together to create a safe campus that does not tolerate this sort of behavior, DeHaan said.

In an email sent out by Dean of Students Eileen Sullivan at the beginning of the academic year, Sullivan said "we are asking you to unite with us in our efforts to address the issue of sexual violence, and we encourage you to be active bystanders."

As part of this idea, the university takes part in the national "It's On Us" campaign that looks at taking an active role in stopping sexual violence on college campuses. Students, staff and faculty members interested in finding out more about the campaign and what it means to be an active bystander can visit www.gvsu.edu/itsonus.

For now, GVPD hopes to continue to keep standards high for the department and provide creative and necessary trainings for officers at the university, DeHaan said.

"Community members need to be aware that inappropriate actions affect the entire community," DeHaan said. "We are working to ensure that students at GVSU have a safe community where they have all the resources they need to have their questions answered and their needs met." 

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