Presence of blue light emergency phones deters campus crime, supports students

In the event of an emergency, the blue light emergency phones allow individuals in need to directly dial Campus Safety and Police. Photo by Ruth Gray.
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With one of the lowest college campus crime rates in the country, it isn’t uncommon for Elon University students to feel invincible.

Many students find themselves walking home alone at 1 a.m. looking upon the blue light emergency phones that are scattered throughout campus as ornaments of safety requirements.

It may be because of the installation of the phones that Elon’s campus is as safe and crime free as it is.

In the event of an emergency, the phones serve two purposes. The first is to give people the ability to report emergencies as quickly as possible. Second, they add a sense of security — students and faculty know there is a way to report an emergency and receive a rapid response.

Remain vigilant and always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t put yourself in unsafe situations. Lock doors. — Dennis Franks, director of Campus Safety and Police

When the emergency call button is activated at any of the 24 emergency phones on campus, the phone dials directly into the Campus Safety and Police Department dispatcher, reporting the location of the person in distress.  Similar to using a normal handheld phone to call 911, the person seeking assistance can speak directly into the phone to specify their emergency until the dispatched officer arrives on the scene.

“There have only been two calls using the emergency system in the last two years,” said Dennis Franks, director of Campus Safety and Police. “I do believe that these lights act as a deterrent for anyone who would be considering doing something improper or illegal.”

Students are the perpetrators in about 80 percent of campus crime cases, according to the nonprofit Clery Center for Security on Campus. But various incidents on or near campus that have resulted in violence do send a much-needed safety reminder to students.

“I feel extremely safe at Elon,” said freshman Jennifer Taylor. “However, when you receive some of the Smith Jackson emails informing you about an incident like Alexis Gray or the assault that took place on West Haggard a few months back, you can’t help but remember that our campus is still vulnerable.”

And vulnerability is exactly what a perpetrator looks for in a potential victim. While most students say they’ll call a friend or family member to keep them company when they’re walking home alone, this move could be what puts a student at risk.

According to Franks, walking and talking on the phone can easily distract someone from noticing if they’re walking into a dark area or knowing their exact location. Their attention is focused on the phone conversation rather than their surroundings, he said.

In addition to using the blue light phones, what can Elon students do to ensure their safety on campus?

“Remain vigilant and always be aware of your surroundings,” Franks said. “Don’t put yourself in unsafe situations. Lock doors.”

Students and staff can also call Campus Safety and Police to escort them to their destination from 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. all week anywhere on campus.

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