Campus security on rise

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Shoundra Ferguson always considered herself a prepared person.

But news of a serial killer in south Louisiana, especially one now thought to be connected with the disappearance of a university student, has made her more vigilant than ever.

&uot;I’m taking more precautions, just trying to be more aware,&uot; said Ferguson, a criminal justice and pre-law student at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus.

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&uot;I try to do everything I need to do as early as possible, in the daylight. If I can’t, I try to have someone with me,&uot; said Ferguson, who commutes from Woodville. &uot;And I always have a cell phone with me, especially since I travel.&uot;

And Ferguson isn’t alone in her concern. The Natchez campuses of both Co-Lin and Alcorn State University, which already had security in place, are taking even more measures to make sure students, faculty and staff are safe.

Of about 800 students on Co-Lin’s Natchez campus, about 75 percent are women. On Alcorn’s Natchez campus, 80 percent of about 250 students are female.

And women &045; especially those who look like easy targets &045; are especially susceptible to crime, said Natchez police Investigator Gary Nations.

With that in mind, Nations will lead a self-defense seminar from 2 to 4 p.m. April 23 in the lecture hall of Co-Lin &045; Natchez’s Tom Reed Building.

&uot;It’s in response to what’s happening with the serial killer down in Baton Rouge,&uot; said Betty Mullen, director of student support services, who came up with the idea for the program.The April 23 seminar will be open to the public, Mullen said.

Officials of Alcorn’s Natchez campus have already brought in a Memphis-based consultant to recommend ways for the campus to beef up security.

&uot;That’s not just a response to the serial killings,&uot; but to make students, faculty and staff more secure in general, said Dr. Frances Henderson, dean of Alcorn’s Natchez-based School of Nursing.

Recommendations the school is already working to implement include adding extra security officers to the existing four, increasing lighting, issuing identification tags and instructing students on personal safety measures.

As part of that effort, Alcorn will schedule a self-defense seminar of its own, with the time, date and place to be announced soon, Henderson said.

However, security was already a priority on both campuses long before the Louisiana killings started making headlines, said Henderson and Dr. Ronnie Nettles, dean of Co-Lin’s Natchez campus.

Co-Lin &045; Natchez’s two full-time and one part-time security guards are taught to be familiar with faculty, students and staff.

&uot;When there is someone who is out of place or is not obviously a student, we want to know who that person is,&uot; Nettles said.

During orientation, students are also urged to call security guards to escort them to their vehicles, especially at night, if something doesn’t feel right.

&uot;But that (sort of awareness) is something we want to happen all the time,&uot; Nettles said.

Nations couldn’t agree more.

&uot;What bad is that when a crime occurs, a person will say ‘I knew something didn’t feel right, but I went out there anyway,’ &uot; Nations said.