Remember to Watch Your Back

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the most detrimental things to our personal safety is having a complacent attitude. It’s very easy to believe that if something hasn’t happened to you that you have some sort of immunity. For instance, my six-foot-tall stature gave me a false sense of security because I thought it would make any creeper think twice about coming after me. I quickly learned this isn’t true, and luckily, I didn’t learn it through something awful actually happening to me.

I was walking to Safeway over the weekend when I passed a man who I’d seen at the PSU library a couple days earlier. I didn’t think anything of it until he began running at me and yelling, asking if I wanted to be friends and that he “saw me hanging in the library the other night.” The fact that he recognized me was definitely unnerving. Another day, I was walking home from class when a man acted like he was going to attack me. He very intentionally and aggressively lunged at me. Instantly, some of my old self-defense lessons seemed to emerge from deep within. I put my arms up to block his lunge, and I was in a fighting stance when he just scampered off.

Both of these events happened in broad daylight with other people around me. These oddballs probably didn’t even mean me any “real” harm—but it was weird. Of course, these instances aren’t unique to me or Portland, and I strongly believe everyone should know some self-defense. PSU offers a one credit self-defense class, and I’m excited to be taking it next term. I think I’ll also start lifting again—if being tall isn’t intimidating anymore, maybe some bulging biceps will do the trick.

Call Campus Security? Maybe not.

HPIM2422

Another “phalanx response”, on Sunday, March 2, in Smith.

Over Christmas, as I returned to my car at 2 a.m., I was approached by four muscular campus security officers, in three patrol cars. It was a little scary.

Someone had called in a complaint about a man “trying to break into the library, wearing a hoody.”  I had returned some books to the Millar Library dropbox, and then carried the library’s delivered New York Times closer to the revolving doors as a courtesy, pausing to read some headlines first. I’m geeky like that.

After a check with dispatch that I was a bona fide student, the four officers let me on my way. I’ve since noticed this “phalanx of four” routine is common with Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) responses:

  • HPIM2423Last week, I saw a solo CPSO officer patrolling the Broadway. Around the corner, I spotted three more campus security responding to an incident.
  • Later in the week, a young man was panhandling all of us in line for coffee in Smith. Someone apparently reported him, as later I spied one officer stationed by the coffee joint, two more interviewing him by the Information Desk, and a fourth officer by the front door on Broadway.

Clearly, CPSO is prepared for any escape in any direction! Their “I-formation” is as impressive as any our football Vikings might run.

I refrained from calling CPSO on the panhandler, as I also did last week when I saw an unstable young man kicking all of the gravel out of the tree beds in front of the Broadway. I imagined an overreaction from CPSO similar to my experience.

Is all this manpower necessary to keep us safe? A greater risk is created, I suggest, if some students avoid calling security in the first place, concerned about overkill. Money would also be saved if CPSO responded with two-man teams.

What do you think?  In April, the university will have a security discussion that will include the question of arming these officers with guns. Tell the university what you think here, or add a comment to this blogpost. You can bone up on the recent task force report on campus safety here.