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COC officials provide update on campus safety  

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College of the Canyons officials presented an update on the campus safety department at last week’s Santa Clarita Community College District board of trustees meeting. 

The presentation was made by Jim Temple, vice president of technology at the college, who discussed some of the options that have been on the table in recent years for campus safety and the different services that are currently provided. 

The safety department, according to Temple, is comprised of 17 employees, including 13 safety officers, with another four positions currently in recruitment. These officers are different from sworn officers in that they can enforce laws as appropriate, but they do not carry firearms, instead using non-lethal weapons. 

“Our campus safety department has an extensive background in law enforcement,” Temple said. “They have the ability to arrest and detain individuals in some circumstances and all of the campus safety employees … have been trained on first aid and CPR.” 

During multiple town halls that were held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple said opinions were divided on whether to have an armed presence on the college’s two campuses, in Valencia and Canyon Country. He added that some K-12 school districts in California have chosen to not have armed presences on campuses, though school resource officers are still available should something occur on a campus. 

The options that COC had in the spring of 2020, according to Temple, included: 

  • A combination of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, through a contract with the department’s Community College Bureau, and armed security officers. 
  • A subcontract with the William S. Hart Union High School District for school resource deputies, with one on each campus when classes are in session. 
  • A college-run police department. 
  • Converting the safety department to an armed department. 
  • Keeping the status quo, but with more foot patrols and an annual review of crime statistics. 

The college chose to keep the status quo, Temple said. 

“Given the low amount of crime on both of our campuses and in the Santa Clarita Valley, given the fact that we were split on which way to pursue,” Temple said, “we opted to maintain our status quo going forward with increased foot patrols on both campuses and also taking a careful look at our crime statistics, not only our Clery statistics, but also our scan of the other crime reports on campus.” 

Every college and university is required via the Clery Act to report on campus crime, support victims of violence, and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety. Crimes that fit under the Clery Act include: murder; sexual offense; aggravated assault; robbery or forced entry; vehicle theft; arson; liquor law arrests or violations; drug law arrests or violations; weapon possession; and dating violence or stalking. 

Temple said that since 2020, there have been no reports of Clery crimes at the Canyon Country Campus, while 10 have been reported at the Valencia campus. Five of those reports were motor vehicle thefts, three were burglaries, one was for drugs and another was for stalking. 

Chancellor Dianne Van Hook said those statistics are “pretty amazing” considering the sizes of each campus, though she added that the college has been working to ensure that there is sufficient lighting for people to feel safe. 

“Given the size, the physical size of our campus, the landscape, the walkways — we’ve really worked hard on improving lighting,” Van Hook said. “That was a huge discussion five, six, seven years ago.” 

The college is also working on improving emergency preparedness, holding earthquake drills and active shooter drills each semester, Temple said. He added that COC’s emergency notification system is also in place to alert students and employees if there is ever a reason for them to need to shelter in place or seek shelter. 

The safety department’s website is also scheduled to receive an upgrade in the near future, Temple said, with the idea being to make it easier to navigate and for people to know where to go if there is a problem on one of the campuses. 

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