Shootings and gun violence got a lot of attention in 2015. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, there were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015, killing 475 and wounding 1,870. Yes, that statistic reports more mass shootings than there were days in the year. The website did include the shooter in the statistics, a practice they are changing this year to conform to the FBI definition of a mass shooting: “four or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.”
The events in San Bernardino and at Umpqua Community College will undoubtedly haunt us for years to come as the events in Columbine and at Virginia Tech still do, years later.
Millersville is not a community completely free of violence. It has been just over a year since Karlie Hall was murdered in her dorm room. Although this was not an event involving firearms, the campus was still shocked and deeply affected.
One thing Millersville University is offering the LiveSafe app, a smartphone application. This campus safety app allows students, faculty and staff to connect with university police officers. It lets you anonymously submit tips about suspicious activity, even allowing for picture, video or audio evidence. The app allows you to request safety escorts from University Police. It also can allow your friends to see that you got to your destination safely by enabling GPS tracking. According to LiveSafe founder Shy Pahlevani, Millersville University is the first institution of higher education in Pennsylvania to adopt and utilize the campus safety application. LiveSafe is free for all students, parents, faculty and staff members. According to University Police Chief Pete Anders, there have been more than 1,500 downloads of the app since MU adopted the system.
In a recent campus safety presentation, Chief Anders provided details on the LiveSafe app and a summary of A.L.i.C.E. training, a system of proactive measures to take in the event of an active shooter situation. A.L.i.C.E. stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. MUPD has adopted the program and conducts training sessions for members of the campus community. So far, three faculty members have been trained to be A.L.i.C.E. instructors and Chief Anders is hoping to run another training session next January.
According to Chief Anders, one of the major things citizens can always do is report anything suspicious to the police. “In over 90 percent of shootings, at least one person had a very good idea an incident would occur,” Anders said. “In over 60 percent of shootings two or more people had a very good idea an incident would occur.” Chief Anders said that people often do not want to call 9-1-1. “During the snowstorm, people called 9-1-1 to ask if the pizza place was open, but they won’t call if they have a suspicion or if they don’t perceive an immediate emergency.”
These are not the only efforts being made. Directly following his presentation, Chief Anders spoke with members of the faculty and staff about ways to coordinate, train, and better prepare. Training for event staff and cite assessment were brought up as ways to make large campus events safer. Chief Anders spoke of a potential training in barricading and fighting back when escape is impossible. There was even a suggestion that the A.L.i.C.E. training be included in the Wellness curriculum.
Efforts for campus safety are always changing and adapting every time a new incident happens. There are many ways for members of the Millersville University community to be proactive towards making the campus a safer place. Hopefully the same efforts can help to reduce the occurrence and impact of gun violence as we move further into 2016.