Editorial: A campus scare and reminder

Published 6:32 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Here’s a question for Salisbury City Council candidates: What are you going to do about crime in the city?

Catawba College students got a scare early Monday morning during a fight on campus involving outsiders, a fight that may be related to an armed robbery that took place off campus a little earlier.

This is an unusual occurrence for Catawba, but it adds to mounting concerns about law and order in Salisbury. Residents of the West End community lobbied hard last year for a greater police presence in their neighborhood, and the Salisbury Police Department responded. But crime can happen anywhere, and Monday’s incident at Catawba is worrisome.

Catawba is not alone. Livingstone College also emphasizes campus security. In fact, campus safety has become such a concern across the country that U.S. News & World Report has started including published campus crime statistics in its annual ranking of the best colleges.

In the past month, there have been campus shootings at Sacramento City College, Texas Southern University and Savannah State University. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, campus attacks have been on the rise, with deaths due to murder or non-negligent manslaughter going from 17 in 2009 to 23 in 2013, the last year data was available.

Colleges are better equipped now to alert students to danger — one of the lessons of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Catawba officials issued an alert via the college’s Twitter account warning students about possibly armed men being on campus. Then the college — having gone through an “active shooter” exercise a couple of years ago — followed its emergency plan, telling students to report to their residence halls, stay inside their dorm rooms and “shelter in place.” Salisbury Police arrested four suspects, the alert was lifted and campus life went back to normal, almost. Extra security is still in place.

Salisbury is fortunate to have four instititutions of higher learning in the city limits — Catawba, Livingstone, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Hood Theological Seminary. The safety of their students is a top concern for college officials, as it should be for the city, too. Monday’s scare should remind students not to take their safety for granted.