Students feel safe despite increased robberies, Venuti says
Since Aug. 1, the number of robberies reported by VCU Police has surpassed the total number reported during the 2011 calendar year. VCU Police daily incident logs report that there were 24 successful robberies reported on or near campus in 2011. This semester, the VCU Police Department has reported 28 successful robberies on and near campus.
“What we’ve seen this year is an increase in robberies, a lot on the perimeter of campus,” said VCU Chief of Police John Venuti. “We’ve seen more robberies of people with no VCU affiliation occurring within our patrol jurisdiction.”
Despite the increased robbery rate, Venuti said that most students, faculty and staff have reported they have felt either very safe or safe on both campuses. According to Venuti, the VCU Police administer a “perceptions of safety” survey three times during an academic year. The results from May 2012, he said, show that 93.3 percent of the students, faculty and staff surveyed feel very safe or safe on both campuses. In their most recent survey, administered in October, there was a slight increase — 93.9 percent of surveyors felt very safe or safe on campus.
Venuti said that the results show that people generally feel safe on campus and the increase in robberies has only given VCU Police further incentive to add to that feeling of safety.
“We’ve been so aggressive with our deployment and our response to a lot of the robbery suppression and robbery prevention that it’s hard to kind of stay focused on a bunch of different things,” Venuti said. “We’re trying to split a lot of our focus so that we don’t start seeing a lot of larceny and an increased level of larceny on campus while we’re focusing so much primarily off-campus.”
One of the trends the police department noticed, according to Venuti, was most of the crimes took place near, but not on, campus.
“Going back a couple of weeks, we’ve had a little bit of a trend in the Carver area. We adjusted our deployment and focused on that,” he said.
Venuti also said that unlike traditional campus police, VCU Police patrol outside of the core of the campus to ensure a safe environment for students.
“Historically, you find campus police departments on-campus. We’re spending the majority of our time off-campus in the areas around VCU rather than on-campus, which makes us very, very different,” Venuti said.
Besides off-campus robberies, VCU has seen recent high-profile incidents like sightings of a gunman on MCV campus on Nov. 6 and a Nov. 17 arson in Rhoads Hall which forced residents of two dorms out of their rooms for hours early in the morning.
However, the VCU police aren’t protecting the campus by themselves. Venuti said the department also collaborates with the Richmond Police Department to make sure both VCU and the city of Richmond are safe.
The two departments already work together during basketball games, for the Dominion Christmas Parade on Dec. 1 and the recent Trim the Turkey 5K. Venuti said because VCU is an open campus, the departments have to work together.
“We’re constantly looking for ways and opportunities to work with Richmond. The VCU area is considered a concurrent jurisdiction,” Venuti said. “It’s not VCU’s, it’s not just the city of Richmond’s. It’s concurrent, we both have jurisdiction in those areas. So we both work to solve a lot of problems and issues in those areas.”