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Mass shooting crisis prompts look at RU’s preparedness

By Danielle Castillo

Online Content Directory


Over 128 mass shootings were reported in the U.S. as of March 28 — with the recent attack on Michigan State University — Rochester University's students and employees have expressed concerns over the issue and want to be prepared in case tragedy strikes at RU.


A "mass shooting" is defined by the Gun Violence Archive and The Guardian's mass shooting database as an attack in which a minimum of four people, not counting the gunmen, are shot or killed. The Gun Violence Archive recorded over 600 mass shootings in 2022 and tracked over 690 in 2021.


Nilla Kanjoma, a freshman studying pre-med, said she feels safe at RU "to an extent" because "the community's small. It’s still scary because it's open to anyone.” She said she is always prepared to hit an emergency button.


Detective Sergeant Kirk Simpson of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said, officers would arrive at RU in minutes if an active shooter call was reported. He said he was confident the first officer who arrived would run in to help and not wait for other officers.


For that reason, he said, many deputies carry the necessary gear, such as shields and extra weaponry in their patrol cars. "The way we stop it is with a quick response and a powerful show of force.”

Both students and employees at Rochester University seem conflicted over how they feel on school campuses around the area. David Sirka, an electronic resources librarian at RU, said he worries for his wife, who’s a teacher. He knows students of all ages can have access to weapons at their homes, "I've never felt unsafe working here," he said. "It could just be because we're a small school, and I know pretty much anyone that comes in and out of here.”


IN THE COMMUNITY

Rochester and Rochester Hills are among the safest cities in the state. Rochester Hills has a lower crime rate than 64% of the communities in Michigan and is safer than 69% of cities, towns and villages in America, according to Neighborhood Scout's analysis of FBI crime data from 2021.


Someone's chance of being a victim of a violent crime, such as assault, rape, murder or armed robbery is one in 1,491 people, which is below the national average for all communities of all population sizes in the U.S.


The chance of being the victim of a crime including non-violent crime, violent crime and property crime, combined is one in 161. In the U.S., the chance of being the victim of a crime is one in 43. Crime in Rochester Hills is one of the lowest in the nation for a community of its size.


AT RU

What is the university doing to mitigate students' unease? According to Jacob Lawless, director of operations, RU's strategies align with other institutions' active attacker protocols. "We do have a safe campus. It's statistically safe here and we have a great partner in the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office that is able to assist us in the event of emergencies."


The Oakland County Sheriff’s officers that Lawless refers to, receive quarterly training on active shooter scenarios. Some of that training includes acting out scenarios with modified firearms, role players and proctors. The training is also designed to emulate the unit sizes of those responding to a call.


Additionally, RU holds occasional walkthroughs on campus where officers can familiarize themselves with campus, Simpson said.


RU held a lockdown drill on March 23 to prepare employees and students in case of a threat.


Lawless also said classroom doors have deadbolt locks and that RU is looking into acquiring more Barracuda Interior Defense Systems for select rooms. The Barracuda system is a door security device that can quickly be deployed and is designed to prevent doors from opening in the case of an incident, along with other locking devices.


Lawless said the university utilizes alert systems on campus. Omnalert is a text message, app and notification system that sends notifications to students, staff and faculty via voice, text, email, RSS and desktop alerts. Alerts can be sent via campus- wide email, RU app, student portals and the website. Some buildings have public address systems.


Simpson said the best thing people can do is be cognizant of people around them and pay attention to people in their lives. "Most active shooters involving random killings, somebody else knew the person was troubled or had ideations and failed to report it." If someone notices something odd or knows of someone with these ideations, speaking up could save lives.


Students, faculty and staff can learn more about RU's active shooter protocol via the RU website. Residential students can find an emergency guide on the back of their dorm doors, along with posters located on campus. Residential assistants can learn more in their RA handbook.



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