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Ohio State Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being shares recommendations

Enhanced communication, security and community partnerships highlight proposed next steps

The Ohio State University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being presented its recommendations during Wednesday’s Board of Trustees Academic Affairs, Student Life and Research Committee meeting.

The task force, established by President Kristina M. Johnson following the tragic death of Ohio State student Chase Meola, focused on recommendations to improve communication, engagement and support of residents on campus and in the near-campus neighborhoods.

“The university’s Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being (Task Force) worked quickly to develop tangible recommendations that will now be put into action to promote safety both on and off campus,” President Johnson said. “I am grateful to the members of our community who came together to address these important issues.”

The Task Force was developed to be a cross-university and cross-community team that could explore the concepts of safety and security using a multilayered approach. Core to the effort was the understanding that what creates a sense of safety and security for one person or community may not be the same for another.

The group was designed to facilitate dialogue about a variety of perspectives and lived experiences. Likewise, members were tasked with exploring a range of inputs to positively affect the sense of safety and security in the campus area, including but not limited to infrastructure, resources and education, policing, community engagement and so much more.

The Task Force was challenged to identify tactics that can help minimize crime and high-risk activities and behaviors while also cultivating community well-being. Three key themes were identified:

  • Safety Awareness and Education
  • Enhanced Security Measures
  • Outreach and Engagement

Specific recommendations to address these themes were created, each following a comprehensive analysis of the challenges, opportunities, successes and gaps related to safety. The Task Force reviewed campus and University District crime statistics and current crime prevention and education resources as well as support services, security and surveillance infrastructure, and the impact of bars and off-campus gatherings. A detailed account of specific recommendations is available on the Task Force website and include:

Safety Awareness and Education

  • Develop a comprehensive, layered educational campaign of all safety resources.
  • Expand and enhance the Office of Student Life Community Ambassador program.
  • Increase access and attendance in Student Life’s off-campus living workshops.
  • Create and launch a safety class targeted for community members living off campus.
  • Enhance the existing cultural diversity and implicit bias training currently being conducted in The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD) by partnering with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Enhanced Security Measures

  • Expand surveillance coverage in the off-campus neighborhoods by deploying additional cameras.
  • Evaluate and improve lighting and landscape in the off-campus neighborhoods in partnership with the City of Columbus.
  • Extend the hours and promotion of the Lyft Ride Smart at Ohio State program.
  • Increase the staffing of OSUPD to allow for 24/7 coverage of one Ohio State joint patrol officer with the Columbus Division of Police (CPD) in the University District.
  • Expand and enhance the Student Life Off-Campus Housing Excellence Program.
  • Reintroduce the Community Crime Patrol to provide community-based crime prevention in the University District.

Outreach and Engagement

  • Conduct a campus-wide safety survey for students.
  • Develop and strengthen Ohio State partnerships with grassroots and community organizations to advance greater safety and wellness in our neighborhoods.
  • Add resources to the University District Organization to develop and offer social service outreach.
  • Work with the university’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) to expand on OSUPD’s existing community policing programs and initiatives, with a special focus on outreach and interactions with marginalized groups.

“We are committed to implementing enhancements as quickly as possible and have already begun this work through efforts like the reintroduction of the Community Crime Patrol earlier this month,” said task force co-chair Jay Kasey, senior vice president for Administration and Planning.

As a next step, the Task Force will identify specific dates and funding needs along with implementation teams to lead each of the three focus areas. December 2020 is being targeted as an initial launch phase.

“The concept of safety means different things to different people, so it was important for our approach to be a multilayered one that took into account the needs of all constituent groups,” said Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force co-chair Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life. “As I said at the beginning of our work, safety is not a benefit, it is a necessity.”

The Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being will continue as a standing committee. Its members include Ohio State students, faculty, staff and parents, law enforcement professionals from OSUPD and the CPD, public health professionals, representatives of neighborhoods in the University District, Ohio State Student Legal Services, and representatives from Columbus City Council and the Office of the Mayor.

For a complete list of members and additional information, visit the Task Force website.

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