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Temple will rank off-campus housing based on safety features

Concerned about violence near campus, Temple University has implemented various security measures. Its latest effort, due to launch next month, is a nearby property ranking database that scores rental units on a variety of safety measures.

The idea has been in the works since the spring and is part of a multi-pronged approach to public safety for the Philadelphia campus, which has seen a number of violent incidents in nearby neighborhoods, including a student killed in a failed flight last fall.

The idea, according to university officials, is to help students identify and choose safe housing, with licensed landlords and properties that show a clear commitment to public safety, while excluding non-resident landlords. approved.

Classification properties

Temple already has a website that helps students find off-campus housing, but it’s strictly a database of area housing. Now the university will add a ranking component.

“Across the country and in the city of Philadelphia, violent crime is a problem, so we’ve been thinking about ways to address this issue specifically in the community where our students live,” said Ken Kaiser, senior vice president. and Chief Operating Officer of Temple University. “We looked around the country and saw other schools doing something similar and decided this sounded like something we could use and adapt to Temple’s needs.”

The program, which has yet to be officially named, will have a tiered system rather than a numerical ranking. Only properties near campus with licensed owners will be listed, which Temple officials hope will encourage unlicensed owners in the area to acquire the proper paperwork.

“It’s about making the community around Temple a cleaner and safer place for our students and for the community. If you’re not ready to do those things, good luck finding tenants,” Kaiser said.

The tiered system will be broken down into a premium and basic tier, meaning the more security features a property has, the better it will perform in Temple’s rankings, which will also take license and copyright violations into account. inspection. Properties must also be within the Temple patrol area near campus to be ranked.

Tiers will likely be represented by a cherry emblem at base tier and a diamond at premium tier, according to preliminary designs shared with Inside Higher Education.

“We want it to be a tool for students and their families,” Kaiser said.

He expects some pushback from landlords, but thinks the end result – potentially lost revenue – will spur landlords to make improvements.

But homeowners near campus who are excluded for not having a license can be added if they get the proper paperwork and meet Temple’s safety standards, Kaiser said. The university also offers help for homeowners trying to meet these standards in the form of $2,500 grants that can be used to add security features like lights and cameras.

So far, between 20 and 25 landowners have accepted Temple through such grants. Kaiser suspects that number would be higher if more landowners in the area had the proper license.

In launching the Rankings Database, Temple is taking inspiration from the Niner Choice program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which has a similar approach.

UNC Charlotte’s Niner Choice program is divided into green and gold tiers. To qualify for the lower green tier, landlords must meet 17 safety factors, including front doors with peepholes, working locks, sufficient lighting, and landlord or property manager commitments to attend prevention meetings. crime and security. The Gold level designation requires the same 17 safety factors, but adds 11 more, of which owners must meet at least five. Additional safety features include blue light emergency phones, monitoring systems and the employment of a licensed and insured security company, to name a few examples.

The program has been in place since 2014, according to the UNC Charlotte website, which describes it as “a safety initiative designed to help students and parents make informed decisions about off-campus living options.” Still, the website notes “this is not an endorsement or endorsement” of the university or local police and not “a guarantee of student safety.”

Off-Campus Safety

For Temple, the rankings database is just one of many measures that officials hope will keep students safe. Some estimates put the number of students living near the Temple campus at around 10,000. Many live in adjacent neighborhoods where shootings and other violent crime occur with some regularity, despite increased patrol efforts by law enforcement. police station.

These concerns have even prompted parents to hire private security guards to patrol areas near campus.

Despite parents’ concerns, some students have suggested that the fears are overblown.

“Because Temple is such an important landmark, a lot of things are marked as being around Temple. It is by far a very safe school to attend,” said Temple student body president Gianni Quattrocchi. Inside Higher Education in June. Many other students echoed a similar sentiment in a college safety survey, saying they felt safe on campus, but less so outside of Temple.

But to appease worried parents, Temple has taken several key steps, including creating and filling the new position of vice president of public safety; conduct an audit of campus security services; the launch of a Violence Reduction Task Force, which includes faculty, staff, students, parents and community members; and the rollout of the RAVE Temple Guardian personal safety app, which allows students to contact campus police and offers “virtual” safe walks, among other features. The university has also embarked on an effort to hire more police officers, which is progressing slowly.

Michael Rein, director of organizational management at Margolis Healy, a campus security firm, said while colleges have much more control over their own accommodations, they are not powerless when it comes to securing campuses. off-campus properties. Colleges can provide student safety guidance and work with local landlords and law enforcement on common safety goals.

Rein added that students also need to make efforts to protect themselves.

“I think it’s important for students to recognize that off-campus housing is not a pipe dream, which means that the same safety precautions that they would take at home or in on-campus housing would still be appropriate in this context,” Rein said. “That means working collectively with their roommates, their landlords, their neighbors, to provide the safest environment possible.”

At Temple, Kaiser calls student safety a “#1 priority.” He is optimistic about the overall changes being made and the potential of the Ranking Database to not only improve safety near campus, but also to create a better community around Temple as neighbors come together.

“I really believe [the rankings database] will have a very positive effect on the safety and quality of units in the community, as well as on community relations,” Kaiser said.

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