JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Officials with Arkansas State University discussed campus security and safety for students at a function on the lawn of the ASU Student Union. According to Traci Simpson with the Arkansas State University Police Department, students Wednesday got the chance to learn about the university's mobile command center and other UPD services.
As ASU students return to the classroom this semester, police are dealing with an open murder investigation. Region 8 News discussed the case with Brian Shelton, lead investigator in the murder case of Michael Gilmore of Helena-West Helena.
"Somebody has to step up and do the right thing if this is ever going to get solved," said Shelton via telephone. Shelton said a person of interest has been developed in the case, but he wouldn't elaborate further on the investigation.
"We're still seeking some answers. I feel confident there are people out there who know information that can help us in this investigation," said UPD Police Chief Randy Martin. "Any tips, any information anyone has about that crime that they think, may even be remotely minute, may be what we need. We encourage anyone with any information about that to come forward."
On April 14, 2010, officers were called to the Collegiate Park apartment complex regarding a shooting. Police discovered Gilmore shot in the head inside his apartment early that morning. Since the shooting, police have not made any arrests in the case.
"I didn't live on campus at the time, but I heard about it and it was a pretty big thing on campus," said Hannah Martin, who is a sophomore nursing student at ASU. "I'm in a sorority so I have a bunch of my sorority sisters that live over at Collegiate Park actually."
Martin said she first heard about the shooting from a friend who lives in Collegiate Park. She said it was shocking to hear the news.
"One of my best friends in the sorority, she was talking about it, how her phone blew up over the ASU news and the weekly everyday thing that they send out and it was pretty big and she didn't feel safe at first living there," said Hannah. "I was surprised. It would have been different if I was actually living there, but if it would have happened on school where we actually have classes, it would have been affecting me a lot more."
Since 2010, officials at Arkansas State University have been working to improve campus security by installing better lighting, increasing visibility by altering certain landscaping, hiring extra police officers and focusing patrols on certain areas of campus.
"The thing is, there's not any campus in the nation that's immune to any type of crime. The issue is trying to reduce that crime as much as possible. We do that through education, through enforcement," said Martin. "We've done other things, like we've created an e-mail address that students can submit to us things that they consider that may be unsafe."
"We use the emergency alert system every month to send out safety related information. Stuff that they can use to make their day safer and make wise decisions for their safety," said Martin.
Click here for more information on the university's emergency alerts.
"I feel safe here. I see the police everywhere I go. I've been to Collegiate Park since it happened. Nothing has happened to me. I've been over to their apartments and spent the night there and I felt completely safe," said Hannah. "It could happen anytime. You never know when it's going to happen. It could happen today. It could happen right now, anytime of the day, but stuff happens."
Martin said despite the school's booming campus population, the number of crime reports has decreased over the last year. He credited that to increased education.
"I'm wanting them to know we're here for them. We want to help them. We want them to come and see us before they get in a situation that turns out of control. We want them to use our resources, not just as a police department but as an educator," said Martin.
The university is also planning to host the 2nd annual National Campus Safety Awareness Week September 12-16.
"We want students to come to talk to us about things before it goes to something major," said Simpson. "A lot of them, this is their first time away from home. They're used to mom or dad making sure the doors are locked before they leave or go to bed, so it's something they have to learn on their own when they come here."