Safety at Western is a community-wide effort, it is not just the effor of law enforcement or other safety organizations on campus. Each student, faculty member and employee of the university should live in a way that promotes health and well-being for ourselves and others.
Safety Organizations on Campus
To support that goal, the university provides services for and assistance in maintaining a safe environment. These services include campus security, campus police, as well as 24 Public Safety Assistants, more commonly called "Green Coats." On top of the student security, Western also employs fifteen state commissioned police officers, and two to four of them are on duty at all times. These officers are primarily for patrol, but also cover traffic enforcement and police reports.
With over 13,000 students at Western, it is close to impossible for these safety organizations to protect all students, and that is why students should know how to stay safe on campus.
Corporal Joe Bailey, of the patrol at Western, gave advice on how students can avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations.
"Being aware of your surroundings is the best way to keep you safe," Bailey said.
He explained that walking with your eyes on your cell phone or looking at the ground prevents you from looking around and scanning for anything that may be a threat to your safety. Having a hoodie over your head, or headphones in your ears also obstructs your hearing and therefore you cannot hear when someone or something may be coming up behind you.
"Being with people I know makes me feel safe," said freshman student Jessica Breitenfellner. "Strangers that I can’t see at night makes me feel unsafe."
Stay away from dark, secluded areas, especially while walking alone, don’t cut through the woods, and always walk with a friend if possible.
"Students who are not aware [of their surroundings] are more likely to be victimized," Bailey said.
Most Western students are very familiar with the student security services, the Green Coats. Corporal Bailey said that the main purpose of the Green Coats is to patrol exterior areas of the dorms.
There are three dorm patrols on duty from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day of the week, along with one roving patrol on duty from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the week and another roving patrol on duty from 8 a.m. to 4p.m. on the weekends. These patrol officers are constantly moving around campus, patrolling the area and making sure it is as safe and secure as possible.
These patrol officers are also the "escort service." By calling (360) 650-3555 students can contact a Green Coat patrol officer to safely escort them across campus, to any dorm or building.
Large blue boxes line Western’s campus and are labeled "emergency." Those boxes are radio frequencies that are directly connected to the on-campus emergency dispatch center.
When the emergency buttons are pushed, a signal is sent to the on-campus police station informing them of your location. Soon after the button is pushed, a microphone will be kicked open allowing the victim to be in direct contact with the dispatcher. These buttons are for emergencies only, and should not be used to signal an escort.
If you are ever put into a dangerous situation on campus where you need help, your first instinct may be to call 911. Cell phones are directly connected to the closest state police dispatch which is in downtown Bellingham, but there is a faster alternative. But dialing (360) 650-3911, you will be directly connected with the Western Washington University police dispatch which will be able to get help to you quicker and more efficiently because of their close location.
Students are connected with the Western Alerts system that alerts students when a dangerous situation has happened in or around campus. Corporal Bailey emphasized that not all alerts are directly related to Western students but because of the location of an incident, they want to warn students to avoid the location or surrounding areas and to take extra precautions to their safety.
The Western Alerts are nothing to be frightened by, but to simply allow you to steer clear of areas where and incident may be taking place.
If you have any questions, or are interested in finding out more information about these services you can visit the Student Services website.