by James Anderson
It’s no secret that Saint Petersburg is a dangerous place to be. Assault, robbery and more violent crimes happen on a daily basis. A quick look through CrimeReports.com and you’ll see that the areas around SPC’s campuses are littered with theft, burglary and registered sex offenders. Sometimes a walk through campus at night makes you feel like you have to be constantly looking over your shoulder.
Only a few months ago, SPC student Jeremy Mayers was killed. While he wasn’t murdered on campus, his tragic death speaks to the safety of the St. Petersburg area. Mayers was beaten with a shotgun, choked to death, and left in a front lawn. His assailants were two teenagers. Moreover, he was found by police who were responding to a totally unrelated crime happening in the same area. Personally, I don’t feel safe at home, in class or in public.
The first step is to work on Florida’s gun control laws. Firearm owners should be required to have a gun locker in their home, campuses should have more public safety patrols, and government buildings should have increased security. More Floridians have concealed weapons permits than ever before, and every day that number grows. Those who work with guns and gun owners in the state attribute the raise in gun use to uncertainty in politics and a nationally recognized felling of instability.
SPC’s campuses are some of the safest areas in St. Petersburg. Other universities with nearly 30,000 students and several campuses are more susceptible to crime. Georgia State University has a similar number of students and their crime statistics report numbers in the triple digits.
Director, College-wide Security Services, Daniel Barto attributes this success to a well-trained staff, “College-wide security hires good, experienced people as officers who fit the college well. In general we train the officers 25 to 30 hours a year on topics like incident de-escalation, report writing, investigations, legal issues and the like. Security has ranked as the top support office in student surveys these past 2 years.”
SPC employs around 40 security officers to cover all campuses. That’s roughly one security officer for every 750 students. That number that may seem low, but Barto has an explanation for that as well, ”By not having dorms many of the ‘typical’ college incident types don’t happen here…..Alcohol and drug issues, fights, assaults and burglaries are all dramatically reduced here because we don’t have dorms. In one respect, our issues go home!”
Florida should work to obtain the same crime statistics of SPC. While it’s unrealistic for a whole state to model their efforts on one university, but the lack of regulations and governmental oversight all too often becomes a recipe for disaster for Floridians.