RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – In the past week, news of violent assaults and multiple robberies near VCU’s main campus has left some returning from summer vacation a bit on edge.
The urban campus boasts one of the largest university police forces in the country, but they still have to think creatively about how to best police the campus.
Friday afternoon at VCU’s SOVO Fair, campus police officers met with students and passed out 500 “See Something Shady” tee shirts within the first hour of the fair. The shirts are an outward symbol of VCU’s new “See Something Shady” campus safety campaign.
“The ‘See Something Shady’ message is just kind of a different way of letting them [students] know, if you see something that’s not right, call the VCU Police Department,” says John Venuti, Chief of Police at VCU.
But so far this year, high profile crimes, like an attempted robbery at knife point outside the Temple Building in February and an armed robbery at the Cary Street Mini-Mart where the suspects fled on a scooter earlier this week, have kept the VCU alert system busy.
A pair of violent assaults by a group of 15 people earlier in the week rattled the campus as folks returned from summer.
VCU Police are investigating, but with only 92 sworn officers to protect a student body of over 30,000, the department has to get a creative at times with how they police the campus.
“We’re aggressively investigating that incident,” says chief Venuti. “If you’re coming here to VCU to learn, our arms are wide open. If you’re coming to VCU with bad intentions, we’re going to deal with those individuals aggressively.”
The VCU Police Department is reaching out to students to actively assist in making the campus safe.
As a part of their initiative, the department is directing students to VCU Police social media sites for information and updates, giving away a free iPad for the 10,000th person to read Chief Venuti’s safety message on the VCU Police website, and running an online anti-larceny ad featuring basketball coach Shaka Smart.
Captain Sean Ingram, an 18 year veteran of the VCU Police force, was the brainchild behind the commercial. His idea for how to best police college life ties closely to department’s new campaign.
“Give them [students] their space as adults, but at the same time wrap our arms around them and make sure they’re safe,” says Captain Ingram.
The police are still looking for the people involved in Tuesday night’s attacks on campus. Anyone with information about the attacks is urged to call VCU Police at 804-828-1234.