As VCU students move in this weekend, Richmonders will see increased security on the Monroe Park and Medical Center campuses. The university has added contracted security officers in marked cars to patrol the area.
The G4S security vehicles will be patrolling both campuses between 9pm and the early morning hours. The goal is to supplement the VCU Police presence. Chief John Venuti says he's responding to the community's needs.
A safety survey told VCU Police the majority of students feel safe in Richmond, but it also told them those students, faculty and staff want to see more police and security presence on the urban campus during the late night hours. That's when PhD student Minh Ho is in the chemistry lab.
"You don't really know who is going to be out there," he said. "So usually if I work a little bit late, 9, 10 o'clock at night or something, then I'll ride my bike at home or take my car here."
He believes the new patrols will be very helpful.
Chief Venuti says during the 16-week pilot project, the G4S security vehicles with VCU markings and flashing lights will provide increased visibility.
"These security professionals are going to be eyes and ears for the police department," he explained. "They're going to be constantly in the areas that most of the people are, reducing the opportunity for students, faculty and staff to become victims of crime."
On the campuses, larcenies, or thefts of unattended property, have come down almost 8 percent in the past year, but the number of robbery victims has increased about 7 percent.
Some have questioned why the department isn't continually handling these beats. Chief Venuti tells NBC12 when his officers are working, they also get called to respond to incidents. The G4S units are specifically dedicated to patrol.
"We're bringing in these security vehicles, who aren't going to get called away out of the core campus, to be out there," he said.
That makes Jaree Rolle feel safer as she starts her freshman year.
"I hope to see them monitoring, driving around, making sure everything is secure," she added.
The cost of the pilot program is about $35,000. According to the university, it's actually being paid for with budget savings from last year.
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