UPD Chief Gene Burton advises students on ways they can stay safe on campus, in the car and at home

From the freshman who has moved into the residence hall for the first time to the graduate student who has lived in the same apartment for a few years -- safety is an issue.

University Police Department Chief Gene Burton said common sense can help anyone in a dangerous situation stay safe in addition to helping prevent a crime.

Burton said the first step in staying safe is being aware of one's surroundings, both on campus and at home. By completing checks of cars and homes, students can keep themselves from being the victim of theft, assault or rape.


A major action in staying safe on campus is staying alert.

"There are no places that are not safe on campus," Burton said. "There are places a young lady might not want to go to at night, but no place on campus is more dangerous than another."

If found in a potentially dangerous situation, call boxes -- phones on poles identified with a blue light -- are one way to reach assistance. Burton said call boxes are not used often, but are tested once a month to ensure they are operational.

Burton said devices like airhorns and pepper spray may be good to carry with you for protection, but are not entirely reliable.

"Pepper spray is a good tool, but not a stop to all. Many times it doesn't work," Burton said.

If venturing out at night in poorly lit areas, Burton warns to pay attention.

"The best tool someone should (carry with them) is common sense," Burton said. "We all have limitations."

Burton advises people should constantly be aware of their surroundings. When walking alone, one should keep his or head up and observe what is going on around them, especially at night and in poorly lit areas.

Instinct also plays a role, he said.

"If you are in a situation or surrounding that doesn't feel right, you probably shouldn't be there," Burton said.

Burton advises that if someone finds themselves in such a situation, they may want to use the escort service. The service operates Sunday through Thursday nights, giving students and faculty a safe ride to their destination, he said.

Other options when faced with a potentially dangerous situation include calling a friend or even the police department.

"If we can accomodate them, we do," Burton said.


Walking to a car late at night may also pose as a safety threat, but Burton reminds students that they can be prepared.

"Have your keys out and ready," Burton said. "Look around before you leave the building or reach the parking lot."

After surveying the area, Burton said a quick look inside the window of the car, around and under the car will also make a difference.

"It sounds a little paranoid, but it also means being cautious," Burton said. "There is a thin line between the two."

After entering the car, lock the doors and proceed with preparations to drive.


Thousands of students park their cars on campus and most leave them set for a few days at a time. Long-term parking lots, like the one located at the football stadium, are where most thieves find their prey.

"We are creatures of habit," Burton said. "Thieves pick up on those things."

Habits like parking in the same location for a long period of time or leaving certain items in a car like a stereo or compact discs can make breaking into a car easier. It allows the suspect to know what car they want to rob and what they will get out of the act.

"We have a lot of break-ins at the stadium lot," Burton said. "But we are fairly good at catching people."

One solution is for students to move their cars around every few days. Burton said thieves shop around, surveying cars in a certain area. More than likely, a thief will see what they want to steal and return one or two nights later to commit the crime.

Another part of keeping a car safe is being mindful of what is inside.

"Don't leave anything like a CD player out," Burton said. "Try not to be a creature of habit."


Even though students may trust those who live in their residence halls, a sure fire way to lose valuable property is to leave the door unlocked, Burton said. Belongings of value like cameras and cell phones should be put away, he said.

"Convenience is a big ally of a thief," Burton said. "They take what is easiest for them."

Burton said time to search around a room is something most thieves do not have and they are not likely to ransack a room.

"Most thefts are thefts of opportunity," Burton said. "They want to get in, get things and get out."


Burton is an instructor for the Rape Agression Defense program. The program helps teach women how to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

"Rape is the most underreported crime we have," Burton said.

He added that most sexual assault and rape cases are considered acquaintance rapes, rather than random attacks or blitz rapes.

The first step for women to avoid being taken advantage of is creating distance if she feels someone is coming on to strong, Burton said.

"It's a difficult and touchy issue," Burton said. "Women should remember no means no. Don't be afraid to be assertive."

If a student has been raped, time is of the essence, Burton said.

"The police must balance out our need to make a case, gather evidence, get the facts we need and be aware of the victim's need for counseling," Burton said. "Care for the victim is our most important goal."

Police must collect evidence from the scene of the rape when possible and also from the victims themselves. Burton said the way to maximize the amount of evidence the police can collect is by calling them as soon as possible after the alleged sexual assault has occurred.

To safeguard against date rape drugs such as GHB, ruffies and Liquid Extacy, Burton advises people to keep an eye on their drinks when they are at parties or the bar.

"Do not set your drink down or take a drink from a stranger," Burton said. "Make your own drinks."

If one suspects they have been slipped a drug, calling the police or a trusted friend is the first step to safety.


When looking to move into a house, safety begins the day the buyer or renter is interested in living there, Burton said.

Walking the premises with the landlord is one step. The potential tenant should be aware of outside lighting conditions, the quality and maintenance of locks on doors and windows and the presence of a deadbolt lock.

Burton said bushes should be trimmed because when they are overgrown they are easy to hide behind.

Another safety step is to check the view from outside. Burton suggests having a friend walk around inside and turn on the lights. The tenant should look in the windows to find how much can be seen at night.

"You'd be surprised how easy it is to see inside at night," Burton said.

Inexpensive ways to safeguard a home include motion detector lights which switch on when someone or something comes across its path. Timers can also be set for outside lights to turn on at the same time every day.

"Both motion detector lights and timers can be purchased at local retailers like Menards, Lowes and Wal-Mart for $10 to $15," Burton said.

Knowing the neighbors and developing a relationship with them will help students' keep their house save if they may leave for a weekend or extended break. Burton advises neighbors should offer to watch each others' homes when people are gone.

If one is at home and believes a person has broken into their house, Burton advises that a student should call the police. Dispatch will ask the person to stay on the line to get vital information, such as the name and address of the caller.

"Tell the dispatcher your location in the house and why you think someone broke in, such as hearing a window shatter," Burton said.

If living off-campus, call the Muncie Police Department. Burton stressed that cell phones can be helpful in this situation, but could delay the proccess.

"When someone dials 911 on a cell phone, it will call the emergency number nearest to the distributor," he said. "If you do use a cell phone, tell the person you are in Muncie and they will get in touch with the appropriate department."


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