U campus holds greatest ‘safety record’ for children

Children living on the U campus are safer than those in the rest of Salt Lake City, experts say.

While there were four incidents of missing children in the Salt Lake area last year, there have been no missing children in the last seven years on the U campus, U Detective Mike McPharlin said.

The difference between the U campus and residence halls and any other apartment complex, according to McPharlin, is the fact that parents on campus are at home more often.

“It’s not like you’ve got a bunch of latchkey kids over there by themselves,” McPharlin said. “There are a lot of families, and you’ve got a lot of parents around them all the time.”

During the 23 years that McPharlin has been with U Security, there have been few homicide attempts, and no missing children have been reported since 1998.

About a year ago, McPharlin said, there was one instance on the U campus when a child wandered to a friend’s house and didn’t tell his guardian, but this was not considered an official missing children’s

case.

“Happily, we live in a relatively safe area,” McPharlin said.

Lisa Lonsdale, a mother of two, mayor of her housing court and member of the U Residential Committee, said that in addition to several other factors, the strength of the community makes the U campus particularly safe for children, even when left unattended.

Lonsdale said that she has seen many children left unattended near playgrounds in student housing, but usually there are older kids around and the younger kids are generally alone only for short periods of time.

“It’s a strong community here,” she said. “It’s safe, it’s quiet, close to campus, and, now that I have kids, there’s no way I would live anywhere else.”

Rick James, director of the U Student Apartments, said that the communication between parents and their neighbors on the U campus results in a much safer environment for children living near campus.

The parents and families of children living in U residential housing can put younger kids into full-time daycare provided by the U, and will often have friends and trusted neighbors watch older kids while they go to work and attend classes.

At night, the Community Safety Patrol, a volunteer watchdog group, works with campus security and dispatch radio when there has been a sighting of anything suspicious.

Lonsdale said that she thinks the safety of her children is most important, and, while she is happy to live in such a strong community, she asks parents to keep an eye on their kids because it is ultimately their responsibility.

Detective McPharlin warns that, despite the University’s overall safety, parents should still be cautious of their children’s safety.

“The University of Utah is reasonably safe,” he said, “but not so safe that we can let down our guard.”

The general public can help in missing child cases by receiving the Amber Alert when it is issued on their cell phones and home computers.

To sign up, go to www.bci.utah.gov.

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