Murfreesboro TN May 30 2017 The Middle Tennessee State University police department may be authorized to work off campus and in conjunction with Murfreesboro police officers under a plan being drafted by city and university leaders.
A group assembled by university President Sidney McPhee and Mayor Shane McFarland suggested the plan as a strategy to combat crime in off-campus apartment complexes that has garnered attention in recent weeks.
If approved, the agreement would give MTSU police the ability to assist Murfreesboro police upon request. University officials said the plan would likely begin with its officers handling inspections of apartment complexes as part of a safety awareness program also being drafted.
“We must be energetic and determined in our efforts to keep our campus and community safe,” McPhee said in a news release. “I am pleased Mayor McFarland and our city partners have long made this a top priority and are willing to explore new ideas.”
McPhee and McFarland have asked MPD Chief Karl Durr and MTSU Police Chief Buddy Peaster to work out the particulars of the arrangement by mid-June. If approved, the plan would go into effect in July, officials said.
The university president and mayor applauded Murfreesboro officers for their work to increase patrols at off-campus apartment complexes, which have led to arrests within days of deadly shootings taking place.
Jaylin Pritchard, 19, was found dead at University Ridge Apartments on South Rutherford Boulevard on May 23. Witnesses told police he had been pushed from a car and that the assailants drove off. On May 4, 23-year-old Jessie Buford died following a shooting at Student Quarters on Greenland Drive. Both complexes cater to college students.
Gateway Apartments, a traditional apartment complex, was the site of the May 16 shooting of Kendrick Love.
Arrests have been made in all three cases.
“The safety of our city and citizens, students and visitors remains our primary concern,” McFarland said. “It requires the teamwork and involvement of the city, the university, the complexes and other entities who can help us in our efforts.”
McPhee expressed concern about how apartment complexes that have traditionally been geared toward students are seeing increased numbers of non-students. The student complexes allow residents to rent a bedroom under an individual lease agreement while sharing common areas, such as living rooms and kitchens.
“I am hopeful that the concerted efforts by the city and university will bring about substantial changes and tighter security at these private enterprises that are being marketed and leased to our students,” McPhee said.
McPhee, McFarland and other officials from the city and university are expected to meet with complex owners and managers this week to share details on the pending safety awareness and inspection programs.
The safety inspection program for apartment complexes would allow apartment managers to invite police to assess security operations at individual properties, university officials said. Complexes meeting certain criteria would be eligible for a special designation that can be displayed to prospective tenants.
MTSU would maintain a list of the safety-designated apartments and provide it to prospective students and families seeking interested in off-campus housing, university officials said.
MTSU Police Department has 44 full-time commissioned officers patrolling the 500-plus-acre campus. They have full arrest powers and must meet the same employment and training requirements as other law enforcement in the state.
In addition to its officers, university police has five full-time dispatchers and two dozen part-time student workers.
In most instances, MTSU officers are engaged on campus and in areas immediately adjacent to the campus, including sites owned, leased, controlled or operated by the university. MTSU officers also have jurisdiction on any public roads or rights of way adjacent to or within the perimeter of university facilities and property.
MTSU's Chief Peaster said his department has “close, working relationships with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies” available to assist on campus as needed. The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and MTSU police have a mutual aid agreement to provide additional personnel and equipment when emergencies arise.
Other suggestions made by the city-university group include allowing Murfreesboro police to refer criminal and non-criminal cases involving students to the university’s Office of Judicial Affairs and Mediation Service for review under MTSU’s Code of Conduct.
An online database for prospective students and parents to learn more about the number of police calls and violent crimes recorded at complexes on a quarterly and annual basis is also in the works.
The university has put forward several proactive and preventive actions to reduce crime, McPhee said. Those efforts include more security cameras, improved campus lighting, increased foot patrols and community policing. The Student Health Services and MTSU Housing and Residential Life offices have also led public awareness campaigns.
McPhee said the latest campus crime statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation show drops in most major categories.