BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Morgan State University school officials are welcoming students back to campus and also talking about new safety initiatives.

Chief of Campus Police Lance Hatcher said he plans to hire more police officers, improve direct patrols and partner with Baltimore City Police to cover even more ground in the area surrounding the university.

Morgan State University President David Wilson and other school officials welcomed students to their first day of classes on Monday. As part of their orientation, they’re asking students to be aware of their surroundings while walking on- and off-campus.

“While some of the crime that is around the campus, while it’s not solely a Morgan State University problem, it’s our responsibility to try and solve it,” said Kevin Banks, the university’s vice president of student affairs.

Chief Hatcher said on-campus students always have access to emergency call buttons, and that the campus is protected around-the-clock by police and private security.

Now, it’s about strengthening those resources off-campus.

“We’re looking to increase the number of police officers we have up to 20,” Chief Hatcher said. “So, we’ll have 60 police officers in the next few years,”

“We’re going to be meeting with the neighborhood associations as well to talk about, okay, how can we improve the lighting in some neighborhoods where we know our students are walking through to get to campus,” Banks said.

In July, 19-year-old Manuel Luis was fatally shot while he was sitting inside his car right outside of his off-campus apartment.

He was a sophomore and served as a peer mentor.

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“It’s still tough to this day trying to wake up and realize he’s not here anymore,” said MSU Student Government Association President Keyon Grayson.

Grayson said that’s when students and staff came together to come up with a list of security features, specifically for people living in off-campus housing.

“My concern was, okay, well, what are we going to do about protecting the students who aren’t on campus anymore?” Grayson said.

While the apartment complex is not owned by the university, the school requested that the complex build additional security gates and create a direct walking path to and from campus with plenty of lighting.

It’s also stepped up police patrols around all of its off-campus apartments.

“We do live in an urban city and it’s important to understand how to take proper safety precautions on and around campus,” Grayson said.

The university was given the go-ahead to build a brand new residential dorm building on campus.

That new building will provide housing for an additional 700 to 900 students beginning 2022.

Rachel Menitoff

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