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Saint Mary’s holds student safety forum

Kelly Meehan | Friday, November 14, 2003

Saint Mary’s held its second annual Safety Forum to provide the students and community with advice on dealing with a wide range of security issues at 7 p.m. Thursday in O’Laughlin auditorium, although less than 10 students attended.

The Safety Forum was modeled off last September’s Security Forum that was geared towards the incoming freshman class. That event was the first time the Security Department attempted to hold such a large event. The success of last year’s event prompted the department to initiate this year’s event, which was open to the entire community.

Security Program Coordinator Chris Pennino was in charge of the Safety Forum.

“I am attempting to provide presenters who will address the issues that concern our whole student body as well as our faculty, staff and surrounding community,” said Pennino.

The forum’s speakers informed the audience on a wide range of topics from sexual assault to Internet predators.

Mitch Kajzer, investigator for the Saint Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney, discussed and demonstrated how he goes undercover online to target Internet predators. His eye-opening demonstration illustrated the immense number of predators that exist on the Internet.

“I am able to arrest about one predator per hour,” Kajzer said.

He stressed the importance of protecting oneself and children while on the Internet. Kajzer’s investigative work can eventually lead to the arrest of cyber criminals.

Saint Mary’s Director of Information Technology, Keith Fowlkes, continued the Internet safety discussion. He spoke about ways to be safe online and the steps to take to ensure safety.

Brett Hemmerlein of the St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit and Cindy Eastman of the South Bend Police Department’s Sexual Assault Unit, spoke on the issues of rape and date rape drugs from a legal perspective. Hemmerlein’s knowledge on these topics comes from serving for 28 years as a South Bend Police officer. Eastman has worked 20 years in the South Bend Police Department and has had 12 years experience in the Sex Offence Unit.

Mary Waggoner, the Community Outreach Coordinator for SOS of Madison County, informed the audience of their options after being a victim of sexual assault. As an advocate for victims of sexual assault and rape, she spoke about seeking help at the hospital and the involvement of law enforcement after the incident.

Despite offering a wide variety of information, turnout was lower than expected. The Saint Mary’s Security Department hopes to reschedule the event at a time more convenient for the student body.

“I would like to think that Saint Mary’s College is helping to provide information that will possibly prevent future crimes against our students and community. The focus is on bringing in professionals who can share their valuable knowledge in an effort to help us become more active players in our own safety,” said Pennino.