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University Public Safety Partnerships that Advance Student Success

Public safety concerns all communities across the United States. Over the past decade, people’s sense of safety has been in decline. Yet, statistics indicate that crime overall has been decreasing, due in part to new technologies and more innovative strategies. At the same time, in certain neighborhoods—usually urban—crime and fear of crime remain a daily truth, and the relationships between neighborhoods and police are as much a part of the problem as the solution.

Consequently, many cities face several interrelated challenges: (1) people in many urban places feel less safe—physically, economically, and socially; (2) fewer resources are available to address societal problems; (3) demographic, technological, and political changes are undermining past practices and conceptions of how the world works; and (4) innovative practices related to real and perceived safety often lack support, in part due to the lack of credible evaluations and communications about their impacts.

One powerful solution for many cities involves engaging anchor institutions as partners in addressing real and perceived safety beyond campus boundaries. Such partnerships are most effective when these institutions’ anchor missions and actions align with their communities’ priorities. The urban university is a key anchor institution. As part of its national efforts, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) engaged in a four-step process to (1) identify types of community-university safety partnerships and how they worked; (2) categorize the key safety issues they addressed; (3) document effective or promising practices for each safety issue; and (4) suggest actions available to communities and universities to address ongoing challenges.

The results of this effort are compiled in the report Urban Public Safety Partnerships that Advance Urban Development.  Key insights are summarized below.

Common Characteristics Of Effective University-Community Public Safety Partnerships

  1. They were data driven, relying on evidence for decision-making.

  2. They were people centered, focusing on quality of life, not just crime reduction.

  3. They were plan enabled—a part of a wider multifaceted strategy to strengthen neighborhoods or the city as a whole.

Categories of Effective and Promising Practices To Improve Student Safety Off-Campus

  1.  Student codes of conduct

  2. Good neighbor policies

  3. City ordinances

  4. Community reporting

  5.  Sexual assault and misconduct

  6. Rental inspection programs

  7. Social media efforts

  8. Crime pattern assessments

  9. Smartphone apps

Categories of Effective and Promising Practices To Improve Community Safety

  1. Research practice partnerships

  2. Federally funded programs

  3. Embedded researcher programs

  4. Institutes and centers for crime and safety analytics

  5. Crime prevention through environmental design use and training

  6. Training programs to enhance police department legitimacy and community trust

  7. Enhanced community policing practices and partnerships

  8. Police officer recruitment and retention innovations

Recognizing the urgent need for even greater efforts in many cities, the report concludes with a set of possible action steps cities and universities might consider. These actions are categorized as evaluation and research, training, and scaled implementation.

Evaluation and research action steps

  1. Carefully evaluating current cultural competence and training programs for police

  2. Further exploring the ethical considerations related to social media monitoring and use

  3. Expanding discussions beyond USU at meetings and conferences

  4. Improving research about the effectiveness of USU community safety partnerships

  5. Leveraging student research

  6. Creating a comprehensive effective practices report

Training action steps

  1. Enhancing scenario-based training for police

  2. Expanding current cultural competence training to community groups

  3. Identifying opportunities for effective distance learning programs

Scaled implementation and dissemination action steps

  1. Pilot implementation of effective practices across three to six campuses

  2. Perform ongoing identification and evaluation of innovative and evidence-based practices

  3. Advocate for resources and policy change to advance these efforts

This report is a first important step in identifying what universities and their partners can do to address their distinct set of public safety challenges. There remains much work to do. The key is to recognize that keeping students safe means making communities safer and vice versa.

Partnerships are the only way forward.

Our thanks to the following people who worked so diligently to make this report a reality.

  1. Keith Motley, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston, Past Chair, USU Strengthening Communities Strand

  2. David Cox, University of Memphis

  3. Shari Garmise, APLU/USU

  4. Ken Stapleton, Consultant

  5. Cristina Neagu, Editor

  6. Cutting Edge Design, Graphic Design

Student Safety Working Group

  1. James Whalen, University of Cincinnati (Team Leader)

  2. Alexander Casas, Florida International University

  3. Eric Green, University of Akron

  4. Joseph Han, Cleveland State University

  5. Jennifer Hartman, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  6. Shaina Lawrence, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

  7. Tito Luna, Virginia Commonwealth University

  8. Starla Officer, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

  9. Jamie Pontius-Hogan, California State University, Fresno

  10. Christine Reed Davis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  11. William Rodriguez, University of Illinois at Chicago

Livability Partnerships

  1. Robyn McDougle, Virginia Commonwealth University (Team Leader)

  2. Cathy Akens, Florida International University

  3. Jeff Brown, University of Illinois at Chicago

  4. John Giarrusso, The State University of New York at Albany

  5. Joseph Han, Cleveland State University

  6. Lisa Kao, California State University, Fresno

  7. Keith Kaufman, Portland State University

  8. Matthew Kelley, University of Washington–Tacoma

  9. Rita Ledesma, California State University, Los Angeles

  10. Thomas Stucky, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

  11. Volkan Topalli, Georgia State University

  12. Richard Wright, Georgia State University

Police Diversity and Cultural Competence

  1. Ed Lambert, University of Massachusetts Boston (Team Leader)

  2. Karen Amendola, Police Foundation

  3. Ashley Brown, University of Massachusetts Boston

  4. Jennifer Curwick, California State University–Fresno

  5. Leah Daigle, Georgia State University

  6. Andrew Fox, University of Missouri–Kansas City

  7. Joseph Han, Cleveland State University

  8. Toya Like-Haislip, University of Missouri–Kansas City

  9. Blake Norton, Police Foundation

  10. Stephen Ross, University of Washington–Tacoma

  11. John Venuti, Virginia Commonwealth University

  12. J. Frank Wiley, The State University of New York at Albany

  13. Marshawn Wolley, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

You can pick up a copy of the report by clicking here.


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