VCU Police Add Personnel, Launch Initiatives in Time for the New School Year
University Public Affairs
VCU Police Chief John Venuti is ready to welcome students to campus for the beginning of another school year. But to those thinking about committing crimes on and near campus, his message is far from welcoming.
“If you are on campus to learn, live, work or visit, the VCU Police Department will do whatever we can to support you,” said Venuti. “But if you are here with bad intentions, we will respond very aggressively.”
The department is adding staffing, equipment and new policing strategies to assist with crime prevention and police response in the new school year.
“Our goal is to deter crime and prevent our students from being victimized in the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Venuti. “We are adding some highly visible patrols and coordinating with the City of Richmond Police Department and the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in support of that goal.”
Venuti is in the process of hiring 10 new officers, expanding the force to 92 sworn officers, including some who will patrol on bicycles.
“In this kind of an urban environment, bike patrols make it easy to quickly respond to calls and issues on both campuses,” Venuti said. “Bicycles also make it harder for criminals to know when the police are sitting, waiting and watching them.”
The department also has hired G4S, an international security firm, to be a highly visible presence on both campuses.
“G4S will be the eyes and ears of the VCU Police Department,” Venuti said. “VCU is a busy urban environment and G4S will make the rounds in the SUVs with flashing yellow lights on the core areas of both campuses. A student in need of help can flag them down. The personnel are highly trained and will be in constant contact with the police department.”
The G4S security officers will assist the VCU Police between 9 p.m. and either 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., depending on the day, as part of a 16-week pilot project. Security units will patrol the Monroe Park Campus and one will work on the MCV Campus. Additional details are available here.
Police also are continuing an initiative to significantly upgrade video surveillance capabilities on campus and other robbery prevention and suppression initiatives.
Police traditionally add personnel and programming during Welcome Week and this year is no exception. Venuti said the department is taking additional steps to focus on education and crime prevention as the new school year begins, including attaching stickers with crime prevention information to the backs of doors in all residence halls.
Police also are providing opportunities for students to register their bicycles.
Bicycle Registration Dates and Locations
- August 20 Hibbs Hall 10 a.m. - 2:p.m.
- August 22 Larrick Student Center 10 a.m - 2 p.m.
- August 23 Student Commons Plaza 10 a.m - 2 p.m.
- August 24 Student Commons Plaza 10 a.m - 2 p.m.
And police are holding similar registrations for laptops.
Operation PC ID Dates and Locations
- August 20 Cabell Library 1:45 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- September 4 Johnson Hall Noon – 5 p.m.
- September 5 Rhoads & Brandt Noon - 5 p.m.
- September 6 Gladding Residence Center Noon - 5 p.m.
- September 7 Larrick Student Center 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- September 10 Ackell Hall 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- September 11 Broad & Belvidere 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- September 12 Cary & Belvidere 11a.m. – 3 p.m.
- September 13 West Grace South 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Communication is an important part of police work. And VCU employs a variety of communications methods for notifying students, faculty and staff of certain crimes that occur on or near the VCU campuses in an effort to enhance safety, promote safe behavior and to prevent crimes. These methods, depending on the circumstance, include email, social media and posting information to www.vcu.edu/alert.
“Our goal is to keep students, faculty and staff involved and informed about what’s happening on and near campus,” Venuti said. “When we distribute these crime warnings, we include helpful information to reduce the chance of becoming a crime victim.”
Social media is another component of the department’s communications strategy. And police are offering T-shirts, sunglasses and other giveaway items with the crime prevention message “See something shady – call 828-1234” to those who like the department’s page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Chief Venuti will participate in a Twitter Town Hall meeting discussing safety on Sept. 5. Police also are giving away an iPad to the 10,000th person to read the Chief's message on the VCU Police Department web page.
To implement this new communications strategy, police have designated Officer Greg Felton as their communications and external relations specialist.
Police also are actively seeking feedback from the campus community.
Last school year, police launched a “perception of safety” survey of students, faculty and staff on both campuses, which found that 93.4 percent of those surveyed felt safe or very safe on campus.
“We will be re-administering that survey three times this academic year,” Venuti said.
But despite all of the measures being implemented by police, Venuti said it is up to each member of the campus community to take steps that reduce the chances they will become the victim of a crime and contact police when they see something wrong.
“This becomes the safest campus in the U.S. when all students, faculty and staff get involved,” Venuti said. “Everyone needs to be involved in their own safety.”
Larceny is the most common crime at VCU and on most college campuses. The number of larcenies fell 7.6 percent in the reporting year that ended July 31.
Venuti would like to see the number go even lower in this school year.
“Larcenies are entirely preventable,” Venuti said. “If you don’t leave your items unattended, you won’t become a victim of this type of crime.”
To reach police in an emergency, call 828-1234 if you are on campus or 911 if you are off campus. The non-emergency number for police is 828-1196.