Examining campus security

As crime rates rise in surrounding areas, security strives to keep campus safe through communication

by Evanne Montoya

The Spokane Sheriff’s Department, drove through the Back 40 while assisting the Spokane Police Department in the search for triple-murder suspect Dustin William Gilman the night of Friday Feb. 10, Whitworth’s security services supervisor said.

Supervisor Mark McFall said the police called Whitworth security to notify them of the search Friday around 9:30 p.m., giving them the suspect and vehicle descriptions.

“The on-duty security officers searched the campus, but did not find the vehicle,” McFall said.

McFall chose not to notify Whitworth students, as he did not want to raise an unnecessary alarm.

“It was not an imminent threat to campus, and there was no indication that the suspect was headed here, so we properly responded by thoroughly searching our area,” he said.

Police found Gilman’s body in a wooded area Monday; he had died from a self- inflicted gunshot wound to the head according to an article in the Spokesman-Review. The body was found about three miles from Whitworth, near the Wandermere Bridge.

A changing environment

McFall said when Whitworth moved to Spokane, it was isolated from the city.

“Whitworth was considered a quiet, peaceful, crime-free enclave behind the ‘pinecone curtain,’” he said.

As the city has expanded toward Whitworth, McFall said, the city environment, including the crime that goes with it, has approached the campus as well.

“While the crime rate on Whitworth campus remains relatively low, there are things that happen around us, as evidenced by recent events,” he said. Those events include a robbery at Jack in the Box, the SWAT operation on Highway 2 a few months ago, and the lesser neighborhood thefts and vandalism, he said.

In the 2010 Main Campus Crime Statistics, the criminal offenses reported for the campus, non-campus, and adjacent public property were 27 counts of burglary and three of motor vehicle theft. According to this report, since 2008, aside from burglary, the only criminal offenses in those same categories were one count of arson in 2008 and one forcible sex offense in 2009.

Security at Whitworth

Whitworth security has the option of sending emergency notification via text message through the RAVE emergency notification system, according to the Annual Security report available on Whitworth’s website. They also are able to send out mass notification through a pop-up message on faculty, staff and student computers, according to the report.

McFall chose not to use those measures in this situation for a number of reasons.

“The Campus-wide security alert system is for serious matters, imminent threats,” McFall said. “It’s not to be overused.”

McFall uses the system sparingly as overuse of the system could result in desen- sitizing students and staff to the messages, he said.

While McFall is careful in how he uses the system, he said if he thinks something of a security nature is important for the campus to know, he will send it out.

“I am the one who made this judgment call,” he said. “When in doubt I am going to err on the side of safety.”

Students, faculty and staff can sign up to be notified by the RAVE text message system, which underwent a test Wednesday, Feb. 15. To do this they need to log in to Pirate Port, and fill out the emergency contact information in the User Account section.

McFall has requested additions to Whitworth’s methods of communicating to the campus in an emergency, he said.

“We are exploring moving towards levels of mass communication,” McFall said. Those additions would include a loudspeaker system and visual text displays in the buildings, he said.

Contact Evanne Montoya at emontoya13@my.whitworth.edu.

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