It was announced in April that the University of Memphis is to receive $5.488 million for campus safety improvements and security upgrades this fiscal year. In tandem, a financial breakdown of the spending was also released, which left some students and parents questioning whether better lighting and up-to-date security technology should be exclusively prioritized rather than manpower in light of recent car break-ins and robberies around campus.
Of the non-recurring $5.488 million the U of M is set to receive, $2.193 million will be spent to upgrade and install LED lighting, while $1.46 million will be used for perimeter fencing and parking lot access control, $773,000 for intelligent camera installations, $750,000 for a comprehensive notification system, and $312,000 for mobile trailers and patrol vehicle replacements.
The bulk of the non-recurring fund will be used to install and upgrade lighting in parking lots and surrounding facilities in an effort to alleviate car thefts and break-ins, which have been steadily on the rise. Such projects will be completed with the assistance of Memphis Light, Gas & Water.
In April of this year, the University of Memphis Police Services reported 29 cars broken into and damaged in one consecutive day. Car theft has been the most recurring issue, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Crime on Campus report. In 2022, there were 217 reports of theft from a motor vehicle, 117 of theft of motor vehicle parts, and 161 reports of theft of a motor vehicle.
Beginning on May 9, the University of Memphis safety website has provided updates to students on car theft prevention, with the most recent update containing a message from Chief Derek Myers concerning wheel locks being provided at the school. To actively deal with the car theft crisis that faces the university, wheel locks were recently distributed on Sept. 16.
Myers suggests that students check with their local police departments, including the Memphis Police Department, to see if they have any locks available. Additionally, Myers notes that Kia and Hyundai have been giving away similar items to customers, so students are encouraged to check with a dealership or look for notices they mailed to customers regarding software upgrades that can be installed for free to make the vehicle more difficult to steal.
As for students’ response to these upcoming upgrades, when Maylayah Wright, a senior marketing major, analyzed the breakdown of the spending, she was disappointed to see that lighting was the top priority.
“A better option could probably be hiring more police officers or having them patrol somewhere. I rarely see them,” Wright said.
While commuting students like Star Lee Lewis have noticed a larger police presence and applaud the university for their efforts to make the campus safer, she still confesses to feeling unsafe. “I don’t feel completely safe on campus due to it being so open,” Lewis said. “I also don’t know what lighting would change. What kind of lighting would stop crime? But, I haven’t dealt with any crime myself yet.”
Parents like Cassandra Wooten rate the current campus safety as a 4 out of 10, believing the campus to be too easily accessible and wide open. “I believe there are certain buildings in the school that should only be accessible to students and faculty,” said Wooten. After reading the article containing the financial breakdown, Wooten felt that the university wasn’t prioritizing what really matters, which, in her opinion, is security and maintaining a consistent police presence around campus.
Police services like Tiger Patrol are still available for students to use, but it should be noted that as of June 28, the university replaced the LiveSafe app with Everbridge Crisis Management.
“Everbridge will orchestrate all crisis response activities, teams, and resources to accelerate critical event recovery times and allow the U of M to continue prioritizing safety and security,” as reported on the university’s safety update site.