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Safety questions emerge as MU prepares off-campus expansion

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | 9:47 p.m. CDT; updated 11:16 a.m. CDT, Thursday, August 21, 2008
Alicia Thater, left, an incoming MU sophomore, moves her belongings into an apartment at Campus View while fellow sophomore Arriell Calvin waits to go back to her car to finish moving. Because of an influx of incoming freshmen, Campus View and Campus Lodge opened their apartments for students who weren't able to get a room in the dorms on campus. "I don't think it'll be that much different," Thater said about safety at the apartments. "My car's a lot closer here than it was at Mizzou, so that's better for me."

COLUMBIA — With a record-breaking number of freshmen attending MU this fall, the Department of Residential Life has found off-campus housing solutions. It’s not the first time MU has sought additional housing, but the decision has raised questions about the safety of students away from the protective shadow of Jesse Hall — especially since one of the housing options is in one of the three most burglarized areas in the city, as identified by a July 16 Columbia police news release.
The facilities housing students under the Residential Life contract at Campus Lodge will be called Mizzou Quads, and those at Campus View will be called Tiger Diggs.
In a news release, Columbia Police Capt. Zim Schwartze said the number of burglaries in the city had increased this year and promised an elevated police presence in some of the more heavily affected areas. The release said that the area of Grindstone Parkway and Old 63 — where Campus Lodge is located — was one of Columbia’s three most burglarized areas so far this year.
Between January and May of 2007, there were 175 total burglaries. For the same time frame in 2008, there were 328 total burglaries. That’s an increase of 87.4 percent. Of the 328 burglaries, 261 were residential, with 82 percent of those happening at apartments, rentals and duplexes.
Despite their location in one of the city’s most burglarized areas, Campus Lodge property manager Vineta Pritchard said she hadn’t heard residents express concern about security. In any case, Pritchard said, “no apartment community, on or off campus, or even residential home communities can guarantee security.”
Campus View manager Laura Kagle also emphasized there is no guarantee of security.
Freshman moving into off-campus locations were largely unconcerned about crime.
Ashok Sezhiyan, a freshman from Ellisville, chose to live in Campus View. Like many of his classmates, Sezhiyan was more interested in having his own room than worrying about crime at his apartment complex. His apartment features a kitchen, living room and individual bedrooms and bathrooms for each resident.
Classmate Jordan Lasater of Ballwin agrees that his apartment at Campus Lodge is nicer than many dorms available to freshmen on campus. Lasater was unfazed to hear about the increase in crime around his new home. 
“I can defend myself,” he joked.
Parents of freshman at the Mizzou Quads expressed nominal concerns about safety and were impressed by the facilities. 
Don Downing had mixed feelings about his son, Dirk, living off campus until he saw Campus Lodge and its amenities. Downing, a 1979 MU graduate, said that his freshman dorm room “can’t hold a candle” to his son’s apartment, though he would prefer if the complex were closer to campus. 
Chris Francis of Lindbergh was also won over by his daughter Amanda’s apartment at Campus Lodge.  “It’s better than any apartment her mom or I lived in at that age,” he said.
Students and their parents agreed that basic safety measures such as locking doors would provide sufficient security. 
For about eight years, Columbia Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Tim Thomason has been running the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, which aims to combat illegal activities at rental properties. The three-phase program includes an eight-hour training session for landlords, a property inspection complete with safety recommendations and “a safety social to get tenants involved and help keep themselves safe.”
Thomason said that Campus View has “been a part of the program for many years” and “is a fully certified property.” He said that its crime rate has decreased significantly since entering the program.
“(Campus View) management is very proactive in looking for crime-related issues, assisting with investigations and following up and evicting tenants when needed,” Thomason said.
Thomason does not recall any current or prior Campus Lodge management personnel attending any portion of the Crime Free Program. He said that if they have completed any of it, they have only done the first phase.
MU Police Chief Jack Watring said that Campus Lodge and Campus View will fall under the jurisdiction of both MUPD and the Columbia Police Department in the sense that either department will respond to any incident at either place.
Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said that Campus Lodge agreed to have MUPD be its primary responder, but Campus View still wanted a few questions answered before making its decision. Both properties have courtesy officers that live on site and perform patrol.
Next year, Residential Life student staff members will live in the complexes and serve as community advisers as they would in any on-campus residence hall. The staff members are trained to spot and report crimes.
MU residence halls have outside doors that automatically lock from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m,, except those with attached dining halls, which open at 7 a.m. Although Campus Lodge has electronic keys, neither complex has doors that lock automatically. Both complexes do have locks on the bedroom doors.
Minor said that both complexes were built to the specifications of the fire code that were current at the time they were constructed. Both complexes have smoke detectors in every apartment, and each Campus Lodge apartment has eight sprinklers.
Minor said that other apartment complexes offered to house the additional students but did not possess all of the qualities that the department was looking for. Minor said the places needed to be pre-furnished, have the capacity to house a large number of students, have some kind of transportation and close proximity to campus as well as be safe and secure. 
“These two (complexes) kind of emerged rather quickly,” Minor said.
Both complexes will continue to house students not under contract with Residential Life.
Minor said students living in Tiger Diggs and Mizzou Quads will be subject to the same emergency drills, policies and health and safety checks as those living in on-campus facilities, while students not living under Residential Life contract will not be.
The Residential Life alcohol policy, for example, prohibits students from possessing or consuming alcohol in their rooms regardless of age. The policy will be in place at Mizzou Quads and Tiger Diggs.
“Students living under our contract will be under our policies,” Minor said.

 

BURGLARY PREVENTION TIPS

  • Lock all doors and windows.
  • Make it look like someone’s home. Put automatic timers on lights and appliances and set them so that they will turn on and off at random times.
  • Leave shades and blinds the way you normally would.
  • If you’re going on vacation, arrange for a neighbor or friend to pick up mail, newspapers and any other packages. Turn your telephone ringer down to low or off, and do not leave your lights on all day.
  • Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to watch over your property while you are gone and leave emergency contact information with them.
  • Leave your regular message on your answering machine and avoid discussing your vacation plans in public.
  • Contact the Columbia Police Department at 442-6131 or 874-7652 and request a vacation “watch in passing.” Officers will be made aware that you are not home and will drive by the area more frequently.

SOURCE: The Columbia Police Department (gocolumbiamo.com/Police/vac-crime_tips.php)



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A QUESTION OF SAFETY

Certain safety elements at MU housing developments vary depending on their location in relation to campus. Some examples of safety elements and where they can (or can't) be found:

 

Electronic locks and keys: Most newer residence halls, Mizzou Quads

Fire sprinklers: Most newer residence halls, Mizzou Quads

Smoke detectors: Residence halls, Mizzou Quads, Tiger Diggs

Courtesy security guards: Mizzou Quads, Tiger Diggs

Student staff: Residence halls, Mizzou Quads, Tiger Diggs

MUPD is first responder: Residence halls, Mizzou Quads

Breezeways: Mizzou Quads, Tiger Diggs

Fire extinguishers in each room: Residence halls (available in hallways), Mizzou Quads, Tiger Digg

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NEW HOUSING BY THE NUMBERS
Mizzou Quads and Tiger Diggs are providing a total of 700 beds for Residential Life.
460 beds or roughly 114 apartments at Mizzou Quads (Campus Lodge)
240 beds or roughly 73 apartments at Tiger Diggs (Campus View)
**The actual number of students who will be living at these locations is still subject to change.
SOURCE: Frankie Minor, MU director of residential life

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TRANSPORTATION
The city already provides a bus service to Campus Lodge and Campus View that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
In addition, Residential Life, in cooperation with MU Parking and Transportation services, will extend the service of the evening shuttle routes that have typically gone to the Reactor and Trowbridge parking areas to include Campus Lodge and Campus View. These will run from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon 12 p.m.to 1 a.m. on Sunday.
SOURCE: Kristen Temple, Associate Director for Residential Academic Programs

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RENTER’S INSURANCE
According to The MU Tiger Guide, MU’s official student handbook for campus, “Residential Life does not assume responsibility for personal items,” and “each student is encouraged to obtain personal property or renter’s insurance.” Agents at State Farm, Allstate, Shelter, and Naught-Naught insurance companies in Columbia all confirmed that their agencies offer renter’s insurance. All indicated that the rates would vary depending on the dwelling or the coverage, but all agreed that the cost is generally inexpensive at every agency.

 

Missourian reporter Jenny Rogers contributed to this report.

 



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Comments

Ray Shapiro August 20, 2008 | 10:47 p.m.

I would have enjoyed the photo more if the incoming sophmore waiting around was helping to lighten the load of Ms. Thater. I'd like to think that Ms. Thater would then reciprocate.

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