New Enhancements Strengthen Campus Safety

by Stephanie Thurrott

At Azusa Pacific University, promoting a safe learning and working community has always been a top priority. Now, as part of APU’s strategic plan, Renewal, the university is rolling out new campus safety enhancements.

“The Department of Campus Safety (DCS) is committed to providing a safe community for us all to learn, work, study, and grow in our faith,” said Paul Dennis, executive director of DCS.

Together with Richard Orr, Cleary coordinator for DCS, Dennis shared more details about some of the latest safety updates on the APU campus.

Special Services Officer Enhances Safety

In fall 2021, a special services officer will begin working alongside Department of Campus Safety officers. These officers are highly trained, have cleared comprehensive background checks, and completed 700-plus hours of professional training on topics including implicit bias, cultural diversity, ethics, de-escalation, mental health, and crisis communication. Adding a special services officer to the team also provides APU with an armed response in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

“The special services officer program was born as a result of professional assessments that were conducted over the past several years,” said Dennis. “Those assessments identified best practices associated with providing safety in a college environment. We are very excited about the enhanced level of community safety this program will provide.”

Community Advisory Committee Adds Accountability

The DCS team partners with the university community and local law enforcement, seeking their input and valuing varied perspectives. “We are committed to fostering a culture of campus safety that ensures that all of our community members are treated equally and with respect,” said Dennis.

To that end, APU has established a Community Advisory Committee, chaired by Xavier Whitaker, PhD, dean of students. “The Community Advisory Committee is a great addition to our university systems of accountability and is in place to assist Campus Safety in ensuring that we maintain a safe and fair environment for the university community,” Orr said.

Ongoing Collaboration Improves Emergency Response

DCS is working with the APU Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) to better serve the APU community. DCS professionals and the CIRT team are prepared to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, wildfires, bomb threats, or crimes.

The university maintains an Emergency Response website to help educate the community about what to do in the event of an emergency, including instruction for emergency procedures, information about APU’s emergency notification system, and emergency phone numbers.

Safe APU and Social Media Provide Communication Pathways

DCS launched the Safe APU app in 2020 (available on the App Store and Google Play). With Safe APU, you can receive notifications to help you stay updated and safe on campus.

The Safe APU app includes some important safety features: With Friend Walk, you can share your location and destination with a friend or family member who can track your progress, while Mobile BlueLight lets you instantly share your location on campus with DCS. With Tip Reporting, you can report nonemergency incidents to DCS. The I’m OK function allows you to inform friends and family that you’re safe in the event of an emergency and also shares your location.

Campus Safety has also rebranded its Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts to better provide the APU community with updates, safety tips, and general information.

DCS Moves to a New Location

To better assist the community, the Department of Campus Safety moved its location to new offices in the northeast corner of Smith Hall, on University Drive. The new offices feature a walk-up window for parking inquiries and a furnished lobby where guests can wait for assistance.

Pandemic Created Opportunities for Preparation

While APU was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, DCS staff grew their knowledge of the physical campus, reviewed plans for emergency operations, and prepared for a safe reopening of the campus.

Dennis and Orr shared these tips for the APU community to help prepare for returning to campus in the fall:

  • Download the Safe APU app.
  • Follow DCS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
  • Report any suspicious activity to DCS or the police immediately.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle or residence.
  • Lock your vehicle and residence whenever you exit them.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle.
  • Register your bicycle with Parking Services and secure it with a U-style lock.
  • Use the DCS after-hours safety escorts when the trolleys aren’t running.
  • After dark, walk in well-lit areas, with a group if possible.

Visit the Department of Campus Safety website to learn more about Azusa Pacific’s safety and security.