Meredith College trims police force

May 21, 2010 3:55:34 PM PDT
Meredith College officials confirmed layoffs in its small police force Friday. Four of six officers were let go.

The school says enrollment has shrunk, and that means less money to work with.

The small women's college has an excellent safety record. Crime stats posted on the school's website show only a few reports of alcohol violations in recent years.

But former police captain Eddie Wheeler says that doesn't mean the security force should be so small.

"These parents pay big money to send their children there, under the assumption that there are certified officers there. And they're not there now," he offered.

Tuition and campus living costs more than $30,000 a year at Meredith. It say a record number of 478 freshmen last year, but that could be followed by 100 fewer women next fall.

"Any reduction in force is a difficult decision," said Dr. Jean Jackson. "Those decisions affect the overall budget. But we're in very good financial shape."

Administrators say a security presence will still run 24 hours a day with two certified police officers and more than a dozen security guards on staff.

Federal college campus crime data shows just one serious crime in the last three years.

"We're a very safe campus. We intend to remain a very safe campus. If I thought any of these changes would affect that, I would not have made these changes," said Jackson.

Michelle Cox, a sophomore at Meredith, says students feel safe.

"I feel very safe. I walk late at night all around campus. And the gate is locked at a certain time. And I haven't heard of any problems," she offered.

But wheeler says he's broken up fights. There have been car chases. He says there are limits to simple security guards.

"They have no weapons, no pepper spray, no tasers, the campus is left unprotected in my opinion," he said.

Meredith officials say they cut about 20 campus jobs because of lower enrollment and higher costs.

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