UFS on safety on and off campus

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South African Police Service (SAPS), the Brandwag Sector Community Policing Forum (CPF), and Protection Services organised a safety awareness campaign. USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY. PHOTO: Supplied

According to the University of the Free State’s (UFS) spokesperson, Lacea Loader, crime is a reality in Bloemfontein as much as it is in the rest of the country. It has affected both staff and students at the institution negatively.

“From a university perspective, any crime affecting our staff and students is viewed as problematic. Students have reported street robberies and burglary incidents which have affected them.

“Students are generally robbed of cell phones and headsets – as these are openly displayed – and laptops are commonly stolen during burglaries. Negligence plays a significant role in some incidents, as gates and doors are sometimes not properly locked,” she explained.

Loader told Bloemfontein Courant that the institution only has jurisdiction over properties owned and operated by the institution. She added that the UFS Protection Services is also registered as an in-house security service provider and can therefore only provide a service on the properties owned and operated by the institution.

“However, the university acknowledges that off-campus safety is a growing matter of concern, and therefore initiated a pilot project in 2020 to address some of the off-campus security-related issues by contracting armed-response security companies to attend to student complaints between 18:00 and 06:00.”

The service was subsequently expanded to a 24/7 service the following year. This has expanded to include a patrol service. Despite this, Loader added that criminals are determined and opportunistic, and continue to target students as they walk between their off-campus residences and the campuses. “Those students residing on campus are also vulnerable to criminals once they leave their on-campus residences to go to the shops,” Loader said.

The safety of students is important and has instated the following off-campus safety measures, according to Loader:

  • Continuous off-campus awareness campaigns in collaboration with the South African Police Service (SAPS), Community Policing Forums (CPFs), and private security companies. This also involves student structures that act as safety champions (e.g. the Community Safety Committee, the Social Work students, etc).
  • Contracted armed-response private security companies on a 24/7 basis to respond to reported off-campus incidents, as well as to conduct visible patrols, which are enhanced during examinations.
  • Accreditation of off-campus residences in collaboration with Housing and Residence Affairs (HRA).
  • SAPS, CPFs, sector policing, and other armed-response patrols.
  • Crime Stop WhatsApp groups for real-time reporting of and response to incidents.
  • Rolled out whistles to off-campus students in collaboration with CPF; to be further enhanced.
  • Dedicated off-campus vehicle (on Bloemfontein Campus) to provide humanitarian assistance to students in need.
  • Appointment of an off-campus Security Liaison Officer to assist with reporting incidents to SAPS and to facilitate counselling services to traumatised students.
  • Continuous discussions with SRC representatives and collaboration on identified issues with the Student Representative Council (SRC) representative for Commuter Students.
  • Equipment support to CPFs from Sector 2 and Sector 3 of Park Road SAPS and Sector 4 at Kagisanong SAPS and continued engagement with the provincial CPF to resuscitate the CPF on the Qwaqwa Campus and to enhance student access.
  • Continued engagement with SAPS on issues related to student safety and the development of the Learning Environment Safety Strategy

Gypseenia Lion

gypseenia@mahareng.co.za