PNW public safety department encourage students to be on guard.

While PNW reports few crimes, recent assaults on the Hammond campus have led the Public Safety Department to encourage students to be on guard.

“Situational awareness is a critical skill to have when at PNW or anywhere else,” said Brian Miller, director of Public Safety. “Be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on around you.”

In February, a female student was fondled in the Hammond Parking Garage. The alleged perpetrator was arrested by Lake County Police a few days later. In September another student was the victim of sexual battery in an elevator in Gyte, on the Hammond campus. 

Miller said campus police tend to respond to calls quickly, but he said students need to take primary responsibility for their safety. 

“When indoors, always make a note of where the exits are,” he said. “Know the best exit out of your classroom and the buildings you have classes in. Knowing where the stairwells are in your buildings, can be a great escape plan for an active shooter situation and a storm safe area in a tornado.

“Always practice situational awareness,” said Miller. “Walk to your cars in a group, shop with a friend and be very alert when out in the public. There is truly safety in numbers.”

Campus police annually teach self-defense classes for women students and staff in a program called “Fight Like a Girl.” The training teaches skills aimed at preparing women in dangerous situations.

Miller does not encourage students to carry firearms, which are prohibited on campus. But he said some defensive chemicals can be helpful.“Pepper sprays or combination pepper/mace sprays are very effective and can be deployed at a distance of 10 to 12 feet,” he said.

But the single most important thing people can do is stay alert about your surroundings and don’t get distracted.

“The only person you should be talking to on the phone while you’re walking to your car is a loved one or a friend that you can ask for help if you find yourself in danger,“ said Miller. “Tell them you’re walking to your car and what parking lot you are at.”

He also recommends that students who are frightened should make sure they don’t walk alone.

“If you are feeling unsafe [on campus], you need to call (219) 989-2222 and ask for an escort to or from your car,” said Miller. “The safety and health of our campus community is the highest priority for PNW.”