It might be alarming for UWM students to receive the occasional Campus Safety Alert informing them that an armed robbery or another crime took place nearby. Although alerts don’t happen often, they can trigger anxiety – along with reminders about playing it safe.
Sophomore Nataley Neuman is one of the students who lives a good distance from campus, and she has learned that walking alone might not always be a smart idea.
“Last summer I had someone follow me into my house, which was a little alarming, but thankfully my friends were there and they helped get him out and get him away from me and I was just really scared at that point,” Neuman says.
Neuman says students sometimes tell her about their concerns.
“I work on the university campus, and I get calls sometimes from students not feeling safe about where they're living,” Neuman says.
Max McCoy says he doesn’t like feeling helpless. The UWM junior says he’d feel safer if he could defend himself, if threatened.
“Part of the problem is as students we don’t really have the ability at this point to take safety matters into our own hands and I’m the sort of person who likes to feel safe when I’m in charge of protecting myself,” McCoy says.
McCoy supports concealed carry in campus buildings, a divisive idea that has not taken root in Wisconsin.
What UWM does do, is offer to prepare students to respond to or avoid threatening situations, according to Chief of Police Joseph Lemire.
“We do a lot of self-defense training, we have people call up and we do different groups, we mix with residents’ life and provide training, so a lot of the stuff we do as a police department is providing all that self-awareness,” Lemire says.
The university has also installed call boxes for students who feel they’re in danger, and its police officers – along with those from the City of Milwaukee and Shorewood patrol the vicinity.
“We never want to go to that level where we’re blaming people for their own victimization, but we always have to have that conversation of what can we do to mitigate those things that might create a situation where we might be a victim, so that’s really securing property, and securing our vehicles, and certainly being aware of our surroundings,” Lemire says.
UWM also offers free van rides for students traveling in the campus neighborhood.