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Annual walk aims to improve safety

Madison Holmes

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Police Chief Robyn Hearne examines the outside of the Performing Arts Center for broken light fixtures during the 10th annual Moonlight Safety Walk 8 p.m. Thursday. Hearne, who has participated in the walk every year, led the group examining the campus core. Photo credit: Ashiah Scharaga

Chico State President Paul Zingg and University Police Department Chief Robyn Hearn led community members on a walk Oct. 23 to identify safety hazards on campus.

Over 50 campus community members and Chico residents participated in the tenth annual Moonlight Safety Walk.

The Public Safety Committee and University Police Department also attended the walk, which was initiated by President Zingg in 2004.

“I started it with some students and also with our University Police Department 10 years ago,” he said. “So it was a really nice partnership from day one and that continues to be the case.”

Participants divided into four groups and took different routes through campus to identify possible safety hazards such as insufficient lighting and overgrown bushes, Zingg said. They also tested the blue-light safety phones.

“Shadows create problems if people can’t see where they are going and trip,” Zingg said. “Shadows hide bad people. There are two sides to the lighting issue.”

Overgrown bushes can be also a safety issue, said Corinne Beck, the lieutenant of the University Police Department.

“What we want to do is make sure that bushes are not overgrown,” she said. “When they’re overgrown they hide lights. We don’t want an area that somebody would hide behind.”

There is a risk that students can be attacked in these unlit areas, said Bryan Mery, a junior business accounting major.

“We want to light up more dangerous areas and see to it that they are getting lit up so people stop getting jumped,” he said.

In recent years, participants have also started paying more attention to disability access on the walk, Zingg said.

“We’ve become more aware of that over the years and we’ve actually had folks perhaps in a chair or with a cane or someone who has been partially blind participate and it’s been a success,” he said.

The group gathered at 6:30 p.m. in Selvester’s Cafe-by-the-Creek for pizza and drinks before embarking on the walk at 7 p.m.

Participant recommendations and findings in the walk have greatly improved campus safety since its start, Zingg said.

“We owe it to everybody who lives in the community to feel safe,” he said. “Everyone here is being a good citizen. It makes a difference. It’s community action and pride in the campus.”

The discoveries made on the walk will be compiled and put into a database where the offices of Risk Management, Environmental Health and Safety and Facilities Management can review them, Beck said.

Different departments on campus will then be assigned to inspect the unsafe areas, she said.

If the university does not keep up with campus security, students with lose faith in the campus police and the administration, said Johnny Bryner, a participant in the walk double majoring in criminal justice and political science.

“Students are already somewhat fearful of the dangers posed by non-lit streets and walkways through campus and in the surrounding area,” he said. “The recent news of people being jumped and the stabbing at Riley’s creates a buildup that at some point in time is going to have to lead to campus security reform.”

Another safety walk will be next Tuesday from 7–9 p.m. in downtown Chico to mark unsafe areas off campus.

Melissa Gomes contributed to this report.

The Orion can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Annual walk aims to improve safety