Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver from the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) discusses important issues regarding safety on campus. He shares tips on proactive choices you can make to avoid being a victim of crime. Listen to learn more about the SafeVU app, Vandy Vans, and other helpful resources.
Marissa Wertheimer: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Marissa Wertheimer with Health Plus. I am here with Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver from the Vanderbilt University Police Department. Lieutenant Oliver, tell us a little about your work with the VUPD and what you do to maintain a safe environment for Vanderbilt students, employees, and visitors.
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: I work in the Crime Prevention Community Relations office for our police department. We have two of those. We have one for the campus precinct and one for the Medical Center and 100 Oaks precinct, and what Crime Prevention Community Relations does is we go out and we try to provide educational programming. We try to get out into the community and do community outreach with the hopes of educating our community and being able to take crime stats and data to be very preventive and proactive when it comes to crime and working together with our community to know what to watch out for, how to better protect themselves, as well as working with the police department to provide for their overall safety and security.
Marissa Wertheimer: Great. Well, we appreciate all that you do. What is one of the most common issues that you see regarding safety on campus?
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: One of the biggest concerns is when you live here, like for example at Vanderbilt University, it is a very safe environment, although it is in a big city, and I always remind students, faculty, and staff that we are still in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, so we are not immune to crime by far, but we can sometimes become complacent and totally oblivious of our surroundings and our environment. So, I see a lot of distracted people sometimes because of technology, whether people are walking out in the middle of the street with oncoming cars or not looking up where they are going just to see maybe potential danger, whether it is someone who is standing there that could potentially be a danger to them. A lot of that technology, our head into our phones or wherever, and I understand people are busy and technology is a big tool to help us, but sometimes it can also hinder us, and that is, I think, the biggest thing right now that I see a lot of - just distraction.
Marissa Wertheimer: So, you mentioned by putting away our phones and being more aware of our surroundings - that is one thing that can help keep us safe on campus. What are some other important actions that we can take to protect ourselves?
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: It goes along that same line - just being alert, being aware. You know, when I come out and do a lot of my talks and we sit down with our community, it is just making them aware that, hey, these are some risk-reduction strategies to reduce ourselves from being victims of crime, such as, say, theft, which is the biggest crime. Those are what I call "crimes of opportunity," when we lay our stuff down, where we might not have a thief who just runs around stealing, and that is just what they do, but it might just be because you left it there. It might not be there when you come back, and if you would have put it away or taken it with you, you are not going to be a victim of crime. So, I try to provide a lot of those tips and pointers to say just be aware. Even though we are at the library and this is our safe environment, it doesn't mean that you are 100% immune from that opportunity occurring. On the same token, it doesn't mean that there are people out there just preying on everyone. It is a little bit of both sometimes, but mainly it is just because you left your wallet laying right there. Someone might not have taken your stuff had you secured it. And a lot of times it is called "common sense." I would like to say it is common sense, but if it is not something you think about on a day-to-day, is it really that common? When we are in our environments, it is not. A lot of times we are comfortable.
Marissa Wertheimer: What about some of the resources that VUPD offers that you think may be helpful for students and faculty and staff to know about?
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: We provide a lot of resources, which you can go to our website and explore our website to get familiar with our police department and what we do. The police department is a part of the Public Safety Department, so when you go there, you can take the time to explore the website, which is police.vanderbilt.edu. One of our most famous and, I guess, well-known programs that we offer in services is Rape Aggression Defense, which is RAD, which is an all-women’s self-defense program. That is one. We get a lot of people in our community and students, faculty and staff who have signed up throughout the years to be a part of that program, and they have really enjoyed it and benefited from it. Operation ID is where you can register your personal laptops, your bicycles, any electronic device that is important with our department. We keep up with those serial numbers, and that helps with the recovery if it is ever lost or stolen. A lot of times people find things, and they are like, "Okay, we will just take it to the police department," and we get it and we have no clue. With Operation ID, we can look you up if you are registered and return your item. So, that is a good program. One of the other things that is really catching on is SafeVU, and it is a mobile app that you can download to your phone, and what it does is it puts you right in touch with our police department at a touch of a button. You push the button. You can get help if you can't remember our phone number, which is 322-2745 ... like, "What's that number? I can't remember. It's like something-45." Well, you hit the button and it says, "Get help," and then you have options. You can call 911. You can call VUPD, or you can text VUPD. The app also has a neat feature, which is iReport if you see something that is concerning, say, a light out in a dark alley somewhere that needs to be repaired. You can send that to us and we can get it sent to the right people to take care of that. Then you can look at the Vandy vans and the routes and the map. There are so many different features in that SafeVU app that covers all the different services we provide for help, and it is right there at the touch of a button.
Marissa Wertheimer: Wonderful. Well, it sounds like there are a ton of excellent resources provided by the Vanderbilt University Police Department, and they all can be found online.
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: Or the SafeVU app.
Marissa Wertheimer: Or the SafeVU app! Okay. Thank you, lieutenant, for your time.
Lieutenant Leshuan Oliver: Thank you guys.
Marissa Wertheimer: Thank you. Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.