Napa Valley College is a safe place to learn, according to a new report, and employees of the college police department are working hard to keep it that way.
The police department educates students, faculty and staff on crime prevention and even offers self-defense and pepper-spray classes. This outreach, combined with the NVC Safe app, which was introduced about three years ago, helps to keep crime down, says NVC Police Chief Ken Arnold.
“Our campus is a safe campus,” Arnold said Wednesday. “We’re a reflection of the community that we live in.”
Last year at the college’s main campus on Napa-Vallejo Highway in Napa, one burglary was reported, and two disciplinary referrals for liquor law and drug violations, according to the college’s most recent “Student Right to Know” report.
There were four reported aggravated assaults and one reported sexual assault at NVC’s non-campus centers, which include the center at American Canyon High School and the Wine Country Regional Simulation Center in Yountville. There were a total of three arrests for alleged liquor and drug violations at non-campus centers in 2016, and one drug violation arrest on public property.
No crimes, disciplinary referrals or arrests were reported for the college’s Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena.
Colleges and universities that receive federal funding are required by the Clery Act to release a report on campus crime statistics every Oct. 1.
The required reporting is mostly for more serious crimes, Arnold said.
Categories in the report include murder, negligent manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
“We just don’t have those,” he said. But it isn’t as if there isn’t any crime at the college. Instead, he said, the police department deals with things like stolen text books and smartphones, or behavioral problems.
One of the college’s more serious incidents was an arson in the gymnasium in 2014 that caused an estimated $591,000 in damage. The gym was closed for two weeks for repairs.
The arsonist and former NVC student, Kasey Cardell Holt, has since pleaded guilty to starting the fire. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27.
There were a total of three reported arson crimes on the main campus in 2014 and one in 2015, according to the report. In 2016, there was one reported arson at a non-campus center in 2016.
Arnold encourages the campus community to report anything that seems suspect.
“If you see something, say something,” he said. “People should never talk themselves out of contacting the police.” That philosophy has helped officers deal with problems before they become a bigger issue, he said.
There are 946 subscribers to the NVC Safe app, which allows users to make anonymous tips, call for help, locate campus resources and even be digitally escorted to their vehicles.
“One of the main reasons we got this (app) was for our evening students,” said Jazmin De La Cruz, office coordinator and dispatcher for NVC Police. Now, instead of using their limited resources to escort each student and staff member to their vehicles at night, De La Cruz will, by request, watch as an individual walks to their vehicle. When they make it safely to their cars, they turn the app off, she said.
The app even allows for “friend walk,” in which friends can do the same thing – monitor each other as they head to their vehicles.
Another helpful feature of the app, says De La Cruz, is “dispatch chat.” If a student is in a class they can’t step out of for some reason, they can open the app and chat with her – when she’s on duty – about what’s going on.
This chat feature helped one student who believed she was being followed by a man she had been having problems with, Arnold said. The woman talked to De La Cruz through the app while she was in class and told her that the man was outside the room. While they chatted, officers were sent to the classroom to intercept the man and talk to him about his behavior without putting the female student in any danger, Arnold said.
The app also has a big red button to make emergency calls and an alarm that users can activate in case something is happening to them, De La Cruz said.
The police department can send push notifications to subscribers using the app in addition to NVC Communicate – another notification system used by the college – to let students know when there is an emergency like an earthquake, fire or even a lockdown, De La Cruz said.
Despite their low crime rates, college police are prepared to handle more serious situations, Arnold said. They participate in active shooter trainings, train with the Napa County Sheriff’s Office and work closely with Napa Police.
If Napa Valley College eventually adds student housing to the mix, the police department would inherit some other problems. However, Arnold says that they wouldn’t be insurmountable.
“It would be a good thing for our students and it’s not going to be a huge impact on us,” Arnold said. Staffing would need to increase, he said.
“We’re a safe place,” he said. “It reflects in our numbers.”
There are currently 6,200 full- and part-time students enrolled at Napa Valley College. Solano Community College, which has 9,600 students, has similarly low crime numbers in the same areas, according to its 2017 report.