UH police chief talks crime
Three weeks removed from a campus shooting in Victoria, UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis discussed campus security measures and rebuffed the idea that campus carry laws would effectively protect or harm students in a classroom appearance on Oct. 10.
Following the Sept. 30 publication of the 2010 Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, the police chief was immediately asked how safe students should feel and what UH police are doing to protect the University during his visit to David McHam’s Advanced Writing and Reporting class.
“It’s not so much that there are more shootings; they’re just more horrific in terms of multiple people getting hurt,” Davis said. “There’s a different mindset to it now.
“There’s also much more awareness of it now. I don’t think the risks to you personally are any greater than they’ve ever been.”
The shooting at Victoria College on Sept. 21 was the latest in the state’s seven school shooting incidents since 1966.
Davis referred to an alert training program required by officers as steps that UH police have taken to train for crisis situations and keep students safe.
The police chief, also a UH alumnus, said that mental preparation is paramount if students find themselves in a situation where a student is firing shots on campus.
While the old philosophy was to hide and hope the gunman doesn’t find you, Davis said, the modern school of thought is to attempt to distract and disarm the gunman if he enters a classroom.
When asked if SB 354 — the bill proposed to the Texas Senate allowing guns on state campuses — would be an effective deterrent of campus shooting violence, Davis said that he’s more concerned with untrained students wielding guns than the threat of increased school shootings.
“It’s not that it’s a bad idea,” Davis said. “I disagree with the folks that say shootings are going to be rampant (because of it).
“It will make things more complicated, but it’s a complicated world.”
Davis also discussed the details of last year’s crime report and the perception of campus safety among students.
The 2010 report reflected decreases in burglary, forcible sex offenses and weapon violations from 2009. Davis said he enjoyed seeing statistical improvements in the report.
“I’m always happy when numbers go down,” Davis said. “We’re always happy when what we’re doing is working.”
The 2010 report also shows an increase of drug and liquor law violations, and a slight increase in motor vehicle theft.
The police chief said these numbers are a natural result of the influx of students enrolling and living on campus in 2009.
Despite the improved security measures and positive crime report statistics, UH police continue to fight a safety perception battle with students.
StudentsReview.com rates “perceived campus safety” at UH at around a C average, with several comments referring to the campus and the surrounding area as unsafe and “ghetto.”
“Crime has never been as bad on campus, since I’ve been here, (as) people would tell you it is,” Davis said. “It’s a game of perception.
“If we have only one robbery this year and you’re that person, then this place is a hellhole to you, but to the rest of us it was a good year.”
The UH Department of Public Safety is currently accepting applications for a new police chief, who will take over Davis’ day-to-day operations.
Davis, who concurrently serves as assistant vice president for public safety and security, will act solely as vice president following the appointment of a new chief, effectively splitting the growing administrative duties in two.