Safety is an aspect that campus administration and sheriffs prioritize to ensure an environment fit for study; however, when the few crime incidents do occur, steps are taken to secure the grounds.
On Nov. 7, Deputy Barreras stated in the incident report that a special services student, through the Tierra Del Rey Program, was standing in front of the Student Services Building on Nov. 4 when an unknown suspect, described as a 5’10 black male, threatened to shoot him if he did not hand over his wallet. Though the victim never saw the gun, he feared for his life and relinquished his wallet, the report states. The suspect ran off after attaining the wallet which contained the victim’s bank card, two single dollar bills and his Pierce ID.
The 2015 Blue Ribbon Panel on Campus Safety and Emergency Preparedness states that crime has been “relatively low” throughout the nine colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District. Of the 754 crimes reported by LACCD campuses in 2015, Pierce only accounted for 77 crimes total, two were violent and the rest were either property crimes or lesser crimes.
The 2016 Pierce College Clery Act Report indicates that Pierce is generally a safe campus, reporting only one robbery and two burglaries in 2015.
“I believe that it’s a very safe campus,” said Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters. “Safety is a top priority for us as a college because it impacts a few things: You can’t study, you can’t learn, if you don’t feel safe. Safety is our primary responsibility to make sure the environment is conducive for people to complete their educational goals.”
According to the incident report, the victim reported the crime three days after it occurred, following an exchange of emails from his mother who expressed her concerns with the victim’s special services coach. Barreras states in the report that the coach was present to assist the victim with the interview because, though the victim spoke English, his speech was limited.
The victim gave a physical description of the suspect and of his clothing, however, it is often recommended that in cases like this, the crime is reported immediately.
“I would hope that in moments like this, individuals subject to a robbery or an invasion of personal space would report it as quickly as possible because the likeliness of us being able to identify the suspect is at a much higher probability,” Astorga said. “If it’s reported later, it becomes an instance of us taking information down and keeping an eye out. Being aware of our surroundings is vitally important, but I also want to empower students so that anytime they feel unsafe they immediately contact the sheriff’s office.”
According to Dixon-Peters, administration responds accordingly to incidents reported by the campus sheriff.
“We have different protocols in terms of how to deal with certain incidents,” Dixon-Peters said. “Depending on the incident, we have various avenues. A behavioral intervention team comes together and reviews the activities that are reported by faculty and staff. In the case of a threat, we have a threat assessment team. That team comes together at will when there is an incident of a threat.”
According to Pierce’s annual report, Pierce’s Behavioral Intervention Team discusses incidents to prevent the possibility of dangerous, threatening or violent behavior.
“It’s a community effort. Safety is not just about us calling the sheriff’s,” Juan Carlos Astorga said. “It’s an individual’s responsibility to report strange activities, to keep an eye out for people, to be an effective bystander, to report or to call on and be aware of the avenues of support so we can get you the help that you need.”
According to the Los Angeles Pierce College Annual Security Report for 2016, the Timely Warning Policy states that if the President’s Office or other administration determines that a reported crime constitutes a serious or ongoing threat, a campus-wide timely warning is issued through various forms of communication.
“I wonder if students are as aware of what’s going on campus as they should be, but I think that’s also a matter of education,” Astorga said. “We have to make sure that when situations happen, students should be told that it has happened. We need to be able to share that we are addressing it and that these are the steps that we are taking to address it.”
Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga said that he hopes students are aware of the Clery Act which states that crime statistics and information are required to be released to the public. Pierce College releases an annual report compounding this data.
“I think we need to do a better job of sharing the education and sharing the information,” Astorga said. “I want to think that the campus is safe for students. I’d like to see us be able to feel that we can justifyingly go around campus and expect that nothing will happen to us, but in the world that we live in sometimes that’s not possible.”
According to Dixon-Peters, it’s a community effort to keep the campus safe.
“Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of suspicious activities and report those suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities,” Dixon-Peters said. “Everyone needs to understand that when it comes to our safety, in light of the incidents that have been happening around the country, it’s a shared responsibility to keep the community safe.”
According to the incident report, the victim of the Nov. 4 incident wishes to press charges. The incident report states that the victim said he would be able to identify the suspect if he saw him again.