Published in the Sept. 28, 2016 issue of The Bells
With the number of mass shootings growing by the day, “campus safety” is a popular news topic.
However, as a private university with just under 4,000 students in attendance (that’s just under 7% of the population of Texas A&M), campus safety looks a little different to UMHB.
So what does it look like to be safe on campus? What are the biggest threats on campus? What are the most common crimes committed here at UMHB? How do we defend ourselves when preventative measures have failed? These are some of the questions that officers Steve Carter and Kevin Mertz answered during their self-defense class, last Thursday evening in the Lord Conference Center.
“The main goal of this class is to make students safe on campus,” said Carter.
The officer said the biggest danger to students on campus is self-inflicted danger, or students putting themselves in harm’s way.
Carter suggests avoiding potentially harmful or illegal situations like not bringing alcohol or drugs on campus.
He also suggests that students take their things with them when they leave their vehicles and dorm rooms.
“The most common crimes on campus are thefts,” the officer said. “We have thefts that happen from people coming from off campus to on campus, but we also have thefts that are student-to-student.”
On-campus thefts are more than likely crimes of opportunity,” Carter said. That’s why the officer stressed so heavily the point of being aware of one’s surroundings and not being an easy target.
Carter also cleared up for his self-defense class that any time you enter a vehicle when you’re not supposed to, it’s considered a break-in.
After the informational portion of the class, the officers gave the students a tutorial on how to defend themselves against a physical assault.
Carter believes that the best defense is being self-aware and being aware of your surroundings. He uses the verse, 1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” to emphasize his points.
“Your best weapon is your mind,” he said. “Your best defense is to be someplace else.”
Carter also spoke about listening to “that little voice” that alerts us to when something is wrong.
“Listen to that voice,” Carter said. “Don’t ignore it. At the police department, every one of us believes in that little voice; that it is more in tune with your surroundings than you are.”
As a precursor to learning basic attack moves from Mertz, he told the attendees that the class was not meant to teach you to put pepper spray in your bag and travel with friends.
“This is when all else fails, what do you do?” Mertz said.
The officer said students can also be more aware of their surroundings if they are not silencing their inner voice by being distracted by their phones.
“Students can easily get distracted by their phones and put themselves at risk of the environment when they’re not aware of the situation. Most of it is self-awareness. There’s nothing I can do to change your behavior,” he said.
With 20 years of law enforcement experience, Mertz has been the “reactionary force” of people’s behavior for the better part of his life.
“Nine times out of 10, you can keep yourself out of trouble just by being aware of what’s going on around you.”
Mertz recalled arresting a burglar on the UMHB campus last year.
“He was a young, clean-cut looking kid,” Mertz said. “He was out looking in windows of cars and apartments, during the day, when students were still out walking. It caught me by surprise,” Mertz said.
He wrapped up the class with a final reminder to students to be aware of suspicious behavior around them, even if it doesn’t fit the normal description of danger.