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Sunday, September 19, 2021

University officials offer insight into violence prevention

In the wake of various shootings that have occurred within the past year, such as the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. and the April 2 Oakland shooting at Oikos University, violence prevention and gun control have become prevalent topics of debate.

As students return from a three-week holiday break for the start of Winter Quarter, UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) Police Chief Matthew Carmichael said that security and violence prevention protocols are constantly in review, along with crime prevention programs.

UCDPD will be hosting updated presentations for both the Davis and Sacramento campuses later in the month.

“Our goal through crime prevention is to provide our campus community with as much information as possible,” Carmichael said in an email interview. “We are continuously reviewing our protocols.”

UCDPD has most recently reformatted the community crime prevention presentation to be consistent with the Department of Homeland Security program, according to Carmichael.

UCDPD has also offered routine Active Shooter Survival Workshops to help members of the campus community increase their chances of survival in the event of a shooting.
Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) at the UC Davis Medical Center and professor of emergency medicine, said that he does not think that there are any deficiencies in the campus security plans but they should be reviewed routinely, as something new is learned after any event or tragedy.

According to the Campus Security Report, UCDPD has various set protocols and precautions that are taken in the event of an emergency, including the campus WarnMe system. The system is programmed to send mass messages to students, faculty and staff during emergencies and undergoes a number of tests during the year. The report also states that there is an emergency operations center that responds to these events and that each University department is required to develop and maintain an emergency action plan.

The department is also a part of a regional and statewide emergency management system that requires compliance with state and federal standards for emergency management.

Carmichael said that the University is also one of the first major universities that has a comprehensive approach to providing the campus community with necessary tools that relate to an active shooter.

Peter Yellowlees, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UC Davis Health System, developed a training program for the State Department of Health in California that focuses on teaching first responders and primary care providers about the concept of disaster mental health, which he explained as a “Band-Aid approach to mental health.” The training teaches rapid first assessment or management of someone who is under stress due to a disastrous event.

Yellowlees said that he would be surprised if campus security protocols are not reviewed routinely but does not believe that there has been any new knowledge that has arisen from recent months that would assist in the formulation of a new approach to violence prevention.

The issue of gun control and accessibility has also been debated following the Dec. 14 Conn. shooting. UC Davis campus policies prohibit bringing weapons on campus, such as guns or knives with blades longer than two and a half inches.
The Violence Prevention Research Program, a research organization that focuses on the nature and prevention of firearm violence, includes various representatives nationally from fields of medicine, public health, criminology, economics and law, according to Wintemute.
Wintemute said that the VPRP is in the process of researching new efforts to require a background check for all gun purchases, or to prohibit the purchase of firearms by people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanor crimes. He explained that this is done in California but most of the country does not practice this.

“After a tragedy like Sandy Hook, everyone, me included, is interested in figuring out how to prevent the next Sandy Hook — but that is actually the wrong approach, because there won’t be a next Sandy Hook. The next one will be different and for all that we want to try and keep those circumstances from repeating themselves, it makes much more sense to try and prevent firearm violence in aggregate,” he said.

The Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP), which provides services to the campus and UC Davis Health System, holds an average of 75 to 100 workshops or training sessions for members of the campus community upon request, according to the Campus Security Report. It is mandatory for incoming first-years and transfer students.

UCDPD also offers an Aggie Host Security Officers Program, which will have a member of the UCDPD escort students from different points on campus if they feel it is unsafe to walk alone.

“We stress to our community the need to be physically prepared to do something in the event of any type of critical incident,” Carmichael said.

Dates for the Crime Prevention Presentations have not yet been announced.

More information on UC Davis’ crime prevention and security efforts can be found at police.ucdavis.edu.

MUNA SADEK can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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