Maggie Kaiserman
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As Miley Cyrus’ latest hit blares through your friend-of-a-friend’s living room, you realize the keg is dry and you decide to get out of there. Walking home from Hathway Avenue can be a daunting task, especially when you start to feel paranoid.

Walking home

We’ve all been through that late-night hustle back to the residence halls, walking so quickly it’s like you’re trying to win a gold medal for speed walking.

You should avoid walking alone at night — your WOW leaders probably told you that much. However, when you find yourself in that situation, it’s important to know how to protect yourself and what services are available.

The University Police Department (UPD) works around the clock to keep campus safe. Police Chief George Hughes said everyone should be cautious and report suspicious activity quickly.

“The most important thing to keep in mind for students and community members is that safety on campus is everyone’s responsibility,” he said.

“People from UPD, facilities, Housing, ASI student government representatives — we walk the campus at night and look for areas that are not lit very well, and then come up with solutions to that,” Hughes said. “Most of the problems are lights that are out and we put them on a replacement list.”

Protection

According to an online survey, some students said they protect themselves with pepper spray, which is the only self-defense tool that is legal to carry around campus.

According to the University Housing resident handbook, “The improper discharge of a chemical agent, including, but not limited to, mace, pepper spray or other aerosols, in or around campus housing is prohibited.”

“You can carry pepper spray, but there are conditions to that,” Hughes said. “It has to be used appropriately.”

If you are in danger but don’t carry pepper spray, use a blue pole around campus to call for help. You can find a map of the poles’ locations here.

San Luis Obispo appears to be a safe environment. When respondents were asked in the online survey if they felt safe on Cal Poly’s campus, 86 percent answered “yes.”

However, it’s important to remember past crimes. According to Central Coast News, there were four sexual assaults recorded on and around campus in spring 2012  — all of which involved a hooded man running up to females and attempting to pull down their underwear. One of these incidents was reported at the corner of Hathway Avenue and Longview Lane, bordering campus.

The San Luis Obispo Police Department and UPD urge students to walk in groups at night.

Safer is a crisis communication service that offers counseling, education and training for any student. In the past, they raised awareness of sexual assaults on campus by painting red handprints on the ground where the assault took place. Safer Coordinator Christina Kaviani said those handprints were removed for appearances and sensitivity purposes.

“There were multiple reasons for them to be painted over, including concerned parents at open house and victims of sexual assault having to pass by a handprint that reminds you of what happened every day,” Kaviani said.

But she felt they served as a constant reminder of the truth.

“It got people talking and you couldn’t ignore them, you could see them multiplying,” she said.

Some metal posts with a red handprint still stand in high-traffic areas, such as near the Julian A. McPhee University Union.

To replace the attention the handprints drew, Safer goes to all the residence halls with UPD to talk to students. They also had a booth in the UU for the first 30 days of classes.

“We are trying to keep the awareness that there are resources for students,” Kaviani said.

 

Late night crime

In an effort to help prevent crime and identify suspicious activity, there are more than 260 video surveillance cameras on campus. But crime occurs anyway, such as the attempted robbery in Poly Canyon Village (PCV) during this year’s move-in weekend.

One of this year’s most talked-about crimes was the VG Cafe break in, when approximately 100 people entered and stole items from the on-campus restaurant.

Leaving the library

The Robert E. Kennedy Library’s 24-hour room is conveniently open for night owls who want to work late, but you might need to find your own way home. The escort van service will pick you up and take you anywhere on campus and up to a half-mile off campus. However, the service only runs until midnight.

University Police Parking and Commuter Services events coordinator Gwen Nielsen said that the van is “considered a safe ride home from 7 (p.m.) to midnight, Sunday through Thursday.”

And if you need to get home after the van stops running?

“We encourage them to do the buddy system and use well-lit paths,” Nielsen said.

Headed to Highland?  

According to the online survey, students said walking on Highland Drive at night is scary because of the lack of lighting.

“If Highland is an area that students have recognized, we will definitely put that on the list of places to look at this year,” Hughes said.

When you are walking, there may be more than “panty-snatchers” to watch out for on your way home. Students from rural areas may laugh at the alerts informing them that there are wild animals on campus, but city-goers be warned: These animals are not to be messed with. Two on-campus turkey attacks in the past year have made headlines: “Turkey attack injures man” and “Turkey attack prompts police action.”

There was, however, a safety advisory warning people of the danger.

Bears also attempted to join in the back-to-school festivities this past September. According to The San Luis Obispo Tribune, the bear most likely came down the Cuesta Grade in search of water.

But that wasn’t the first time a bear caused commotion near Cal Poly. In June 2011, there were four bear sightings near campus within 12 days.

And of course, steer clear of mountain lions. According to the Tribune, the sightings were located by the hills next to PCV, which is their natural habitat.