Campus police inform students

Jessica Imbimbo, Editor-in-Chief

Campus Police Chief Richard Austin has been working in law enforcement for 42 years, spending 21 of those years at Francis Marion University (FMU).  During his time on campus, Chief Austin has seen his fair share of crimes and has insight about ways students can avoid the long arm of the law.

With just 13 certified police officers on duty, every year campus police must adjust and adapt to the various fluctuations in the number of students enrolled.

“Unlike the city of Florence, our population changes between 20-25 percent every year,” Austin said.  “It’s always a relearning experience both for the students that are here trying to learn crime-prevention concepts  and for our officers trying to learn who those students are that are here with us.”

Austin and his officers are involved with both on and off-campus offenses.  On-campus crimes consist mostly of writing parking tickets for reasons such as parking in a faculty spot, parking in housing after hours or parking in a handicapped space.  Parking in visitor spaces is also a violation and cause for a ticket.

“One of the things our students don’t realize is the visitor spots on campus are for people that don’t have an FMU decal,” Austin said.  “It’s not for the student to park there…Those spaces are for other people because there is just a finite number of them.”

Housing violations are also prevalent for on-campus residents.  Guest visitation policies explain that certain paperwork needs to be filled out and approved before a non-resident can visit overnight.

“If you have a guest that wants to come and stay with you, as long they’re the same gender, it’s not a problem,” Austin said.  “You go to your housing office or to your [Resident Assistant] and fill out an overnight guest visitation form. Everybody in your apartment signs off on that, they are happy to have the guest.”

One copy of the signed guest visitation form is placed in the visitor’s car and serves as a temporary decal.

Alcohol violations are another concern for on-campus students.  In the residents’ halls, also known as the dorms, alcohol is prohibited.  If a student lives in either the Forest Villas or the Village Apartments, beer and wine is permitted if the student is at least 21 years old.  Hard liquor is prohibited in all cases.

“In every alcohol or drug case, a letter goes home to the student’s parents,” Austin said.  “[The letter] basically says they’ve been involved in an alcohol event.”

The FMU Campus Police Department is committed to providing a safe and secure campus environment for our students, faculty, staff and guests; which may require writing a few citations here and there.  Overall, Austin knows that the delinquent students at FMU are in the minority.

“95 percent of our problems on this campus come from about five percent of our population,” Austin said. “Those are the students that are here because mom and dad basically told them, ‘if you’re going to live in my house, you’re going to college.’  They really don’t want to be in college, but the vast majority of our students never come up on anyone’s radar.”

Chief Austin encourages all students to do two things: go over the student handbook and program the campus police phone number into their phones. The number is (843) 661-1109.  In order to keep the campus as free from crime as possible, help from the entire campus community is needed.

“If something looks unusual… if you think it’s odd, give us a call and let us check it out,” Austin said. “It may prove to be nothing, or it may be the last piece of the puzzle in a case that we are working on that helps us solve it.”