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WCU leaders, students say campus is safe despite uptick in crime

The latest crime report for Western Carolina University shows an increase in some violent crimes on or near campus. What the numbers don't reveal, according to WCU Police Chief Ernie Hudson, is whether crime is increasing or the reporting of crime is up. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The latest crime report for Western Carolina University shows an increase in some violent crimes on or near campus.

The report says rape, aggravated assault, arson, stalking and liquor violations are all up from 2015 to 2016.

What the numbers don't reveal, according to WCU Police Chief Ernie Hudson, is whether crime is increasing or the reporting of crime is up.

“My department alone does somewhere between 150 and 180 programs a year,” he says.

The report comes after two shootings of students off campus in October. Hudson says, statistically, the university is a secure place, with the report finding around the clock focus on safety, partnering with area law enforcement. A campus emergency operations plan is being revised and a crisis handbook is being developed.

While some faculty worried about WCU's reputation in the wake of the shootings, others are focused on counseling for those who may have residual anxieties.

“We have not been so concerned about reputation. As I say, we've been more concerned about what's happening in the community, how people feel about that,” says WCU Faculty Senate chairman Brian Railsback.

Hudson says the shootings are tragic and understands the concern.

“Because it was so tragic and so unusual, there's certainly concern about are we safe going forward,” he says.

Hudson says WCU isn't immune from the outside world, but defines the campus as a safe place.

“You can’t let one event define who you are, all the effort you go through.”

Students say they feel the campus is safe.

“I know if I need help or I need to call someone, I can either call university police or I can call one of my friends,” says sophomore Helen Miller.

“To expect for there to be no crime or nothing going on, I think would be a little absurd. But I don’t think it’s really anything that’s super concerning,” says sophomore Adrian Beck.

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