Stateuniversity.com has named EWU the safest university in the state, based on 2011 campus crime statistics.
Schools were assessed in the areas of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, forcible rape, larceny-theft, murder, robbery and vehicle theft. The assessment scale accounts for both the frequency of the crime and its severity.
Deputy Chief Gary Gasseling credited the top ranking to the relationship the EWU Police Department has with the Eastern and Cheney communities.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on trying to be as safe as we can, but we realize it’s just a matter of being out there and being within the community, being a part of it rather than just being the cops that respond when things go bad,” he said.
Washington State University took the number two spot, followed by Western Washington University, the University of Washington, The Evergreen State College and finally Central Washington University.
In the 2011 Annual Safety and Fire Report, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety Tim Walters wrote, “Over the past year, we have initiated new programs designed to enable our students and staff to be more informed, aware and active in the safety and security aspect of our campus community life. The E2Campus, EWU Alerts, program sends emergency text messages to cellphones and emails to students, parents or staff. We also provide staff and students with training programs that teach personal safety methods and techniques that may be helpful if faced with an emergency on or off campus.”
Gasseling also said he believed technology has helped keep EWU students, staff and faculty safe, especially from thefts.
“[There are] some camera systems in certain areas where we have high theft, so we utilize that to our advantage, as far as being able to identify and apprehend people,” he said. “Once you identify someone and arrest them, it’s usually that they’re probably the suspects in many more [cases] that we may not have caught yet, so we see reduction in theft, which is one of the big things we see.”
Nationally, Eastern ranked 170 among 450 colleges and universities analyzed in the ranking, moving up from the previous year’s 222 ranking.
“I think there’s a little bit of pride involved, obviously, because the officers work really hard to develop relationships within the community, and that’s what a lot of it is— relationship building,” Gasseling said.
That relationship allows the community to feel more comfortable approaching officers about issues, according to Gasseling.
“We have opportunities to be proactive rather than reactive. In other words, we find out about problems before they become huge problems,” he said. “That, for us, means that we’re successful in getting out there and being seen, being known [and] being approachable. It just correlates right back to a reduction in crime because people are willing to come forward.”
ASEWU President Becca Harrell shares Gasseling’s pride at the number one ranking.
“We’re honored to be given the privilege of safest university in Washington state,” she said. “The ASEWU organization respects and thanks the EWU Police Department for their service and efforts in keeping our students out of harm’s way.”