University of Akron takes steps to address off-campus safety concerns
Following the shooting death of a University of Akron student in September, the university announced its commitment to developing a comprehensive plan to enhance security in the areas surrounding campus. Kerry Jackson, a veteran of both the Akron Police Department and the University of Akron Police Department (UAPD), was recently hired to be the first director of off-campus safety.
The university plans to hire three additional patrol officers and one police captain to focus on the areas adjacent to campus. Akron PD has also agreed to up their patrols of this area. The Ohio State Patrol will be upping their patrols on Exchange Street, which borders the university. The university is also looking into adding cameras to the area.
Jackson has been meeting with local landlords, student organizations, and the community to gain their input and insight on off-campus security. He says he has been getting positive feedback from these meetings.
"They feel that someone is taking them serious. They had concerns about their safety, and I think up until this point they didn't feel heard in the past."
A new approach
Jackson isn't sure if this plan will comprehensively take care of the community's safety concerns.
"I can tell you if we don't do anything it won't get better."
He says their approach is something that has never been tried before.
"I honestly believe that if we can get everybody on board, all of the people that have a stake in this, it will make a difference."
Collaboration and communication
UAPD has a mutual aid agreement with the city of Akron that allows them the same arrest powers in certain areas near campus as Akron PD. In terms of this off-campus safety plan, Jackson says it will be a collaboration between UAPD and Akron PD.
Jackson says he's focusing on communication in his role to try and get all of the people involved on the same page and in communication with one another.
"If you don't talk to each other, you're not going to be able to achieve anything."
Jackson is hopeful he can lay the groundwork for long term communication and collaboration on this plan. He says he's encouraged by the enthusiasm the people he's working with have.
"If we can show that we are making progress, I believe that everyone won't have a choice but to get on board and keep it going."
Jackson has met with members of Akron City Council and members of Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan's cabinet.
"We're trying to get everyone to know that it's not a quick fix. It's not going to happen overnight."
Jackson says they still have to begin hiring new police officers for UAPD and that Akron PD is also in the process of hiring new officers, which he says is a long process.
"I have high hopes. I have expectations that we'll be able to achieve our goal here."