Last week’s safety walk wasn’t just about ensuring the Davis campus is well lit at night. It was also about shining a light on the university as a hate-free zone.
“Putting in light bulbs is not going to stop a hate crime, I respect that,” Police Chief Matt Carmichael said. “But, it is sending a very clear message to those who will commit crimes on this campus — we're paying attention and we’re gonna light up this campus.”
He spoke March 9 on the Memorial Union’s South Patio to about two dozen students, including police cadets, who had gathered for that night’s safety walk. Lighting walks like this one are held regularly, but this one took place about three weeks after police arrested two men on hate crime charges at UC Davis West Village. The suspects are accused of hurling objects and racial slurs at a female African American student as she walked near her residence around 3 a.m. Feb. 15; the suspects also face charges of public intoxication, as does a third man who was with them. None of the suspects had an affiliation with UC Davis.
Police do not suspect lighting to have been a factor in the case, but students in a #blackunderattack demonstration Feb. 22 called for campus lighting improvements, among other demands, including the installation of emergency call boxes.
Call boxes in the arboretum
The campus responded to the latter by stating the Police Department shares the concerns of the campus community and seeks to reinstall call box systems throughout campus. Seven such call boxes will be up and running in the arboretum by May 10, Carmichael said during the safety walk.
“Additional call box locations are also being researched, in particular the Orchard bike overcrossing at West Village,” the campus stated in its response to the #blackunderattack demands. In fact, on the night of the safety walk, a Facilities Management team led by Assistant Vice Chancellor Allen Tollefson headed out on a walk of their own — paying particular attention to routes between the MU and residence halls and West Village.
Tollefson said facilities workers, groundskeepers and others are always on the lookout for lighting problems, but everyone in the campus community can help, too. After all, there are some 18,000 exterior lights to take care of.
The assistant vice chancellor’s team identified 16 lights that were out, eight of them along Hutchison Drive where crews already have been actively working on a larger lighting issue. As for the eight other problem lights, three are fixed and work has been expedited on the others.
The other safety walk teams — students paired with Chief Carmichael and other safety officers — fanned out from the MU to cover the campus core to look for lights that were either not working or had been partly obscured by vegetation, and to identify areas that perhaps needed an additional light or two.
The Carmichael team didn’t have to walk far before spotting a place that the chief and his team of observers thought needed more light: the southwest corner of Shields Avenue and West Quad Avenue, on a well-traveled route near the entrance to Shields Library. Not long after that, they found a number of lights in a row that were not working along the bike path that runs under a pedestrian bridge between the library and Olsen Hall.
Kirat Sandhu, a fourth-year student in medical microbiology, said she stays on campus “really late,” so UC Davis is doing a good thing by checking the lights. “That’s why I showed up,” she said. Then, having completed the walk, she hurried off to study for a test.
Each of about a half-dozen teams brought back a list of a dozen or more lighting problems. Here's the final tally: approximately 60 lights out, seven areas where plants needed trimming and six areas where teams suggested additional lighting. Facilities Management is being notified of all the problems so they can be addressed quickly.