UNA leaders discuss safety in light of recent crimes

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - University of North Alabama officials held a forum Monday, on the heels of several violent crimes, including a sexual assault in a campus parking garage and a threat toward the university's math department.

Three students showed up to the forum, far fewer than organizers expected since sending out a notification email to students and faculty.

UNA Vice President of Student Affairs, David Shields, and UNA Police Chief, Bob Pastula, led the forum. They were both disappointed by the turnout, but are hoping for more numbers for similar forums planned later this week.

Shields and Pastula admitted they've seen an upswing in violent crimes on campus, and they're not sure why.

That upswing has included a sexual assault in a school parking garage, a threat made to the math department, and an attempted robbery of a student in the middle of the afternoon Friday.

"This is not normal for UNA, said Shields. "UNA and the city of Florence is a very safe community and a very safe campus."

"My heart is with each student on this campus, so when something happens to a student here, it happens to me, and I'd like to be able to provide them with the safest and securest environment we possibly can," said Pastula.

Campus leaders said they are taking measures to protect students. They plan on installing as many as 80 security cameras around campus.

The university of is checking with two different companies, and the school said it could take a while before any are installed, but the cameras are a priority in light of what's happened recently.

On Monday, the University of North Alabama announced how they plan to keep freshman safe when they're required to live on campus starting next fall.

UNA Police Chief Bob Pastula said he knows more people will live on campus next year, so he's beefing up his squad.

The school is bringing on 12 reserve officers and has also assigned an officer to each building that houses students.

Pastula said not only to expect a larger police presence, but expect a lot more community policing.

He wants his officers in and around the students at the dorms, and he wants the students to be comfortable with the officers so they report suspicious things they might see.

Pastula said this is something his department was already looking at well before the spike in violent on-campus crimes, and he's going to make every effort to keep everyone safe.

"I don't think we're going to have any trouble covering the campus. The cameras will help deter crimes and investigate crime, but we still have rely on the students and faculty to be aware of their surroundings," Pastula said.

UNA Police are also working with the Florence Police Department.

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