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VCU Police chief named national safety director of the year

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VCU Police Chief John Venuti has been named a Campus Safety Director of the Year by Campus Safety Magazine.

Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief John Venuti has been named a Campus Safety Director of the Year by Campus Safety Magazine. 

Campus Safety Magazine is a national publication for campus police chiefs, security directors, emergency managers and public safety administrators. It reaches 18,000 campus safety and security professionals across the country. 

Venuti, who also serves as VCU’s assistant vice president of public safety, was presented with the award at the Campus Safety National Forum in Arlington, Virginia, on June 24. He was one of two chiefs to be named director of the year in the higher education category after being named a finalist for that honor in 2014. 

Only with 50,000 sets of eyes and ears can you make a university one of the safest in America.

Robin Hattersley, the executive editor for the magazine, highlighted Venuti’s work on attaining international accreditation for the VCU Police Department in 2014 and administering VCU’s bi-annual perception of safety survey. In fall 2014, 96 percent of students, faculty and staff surveyed reported feeling “safe” or “very safe” on VCU’s campuses. That number rose to 96.5 percent in spring 2015.

“Being recognized at the national level is certainly an honor, but it’s also a clear and strong reflection of the work being carried out by VCU Police officers and staff,” Venuti said. “The department has extremely strong support within the university and across the City of Richmond. Collaboration, innovation and technology are what keeps VCU Police operations running successfully each and every day.”

Venuti credits the department’s symbiotic relationship with students, faculty and staff for keeping campuses safe. 

Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief John Venuti
Virginia Commonwealth University Police Chief John Venuti

“Only with 50,000 sets of eyes and ears can you make a university one of the safest in America. Officers cannot do it alone ­­– we truly rely on everyone at VCU to communicate with us about their concerns and needs.”   

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said Venuti’s professionalism and commitment to maintaining a safe living, learning and working environment embody the essence of the award.

“In his role as assistant vice president of public safety and chief of police, Chief Venuti not only executes exceedingly well in high-pressure situations, but he also manages the complex day-to-day operations of the university’s police force with exceptional vision and leadership,” Rao said. “He is a trusted member of the university’s senior leadership team, providing valuable input on many strategic issues critical to the university.”

Venuti became chief of police at VCU in February 2010 after serving more than 30 years with the Richmond Police Department. His accomplishments include: 

Technology and Innovation

  • VCUPD implemented the LiveSafe app, which is free for VCU students, faculty and staff. Users can send in photos, videos and texts to dispatchers 24/7. The app currently has more than 9,000 users.
  • The chief oversaw the upgrade of a universitywide security camera system; to date, the department has used the footage to obtain valuable video evidence in more than 500 cases.
  • In 2015, the department implemented body-worn cameras for patrol officers. Even after seeing a dramatic decline in use of force by officers since 2010, Venuti wanted to increase transparency with the community.

Sexual Assault and Prevention

  • Venuti was chairman of the law enforcement subcommittee for the Governor’s Task Force on Sexual Assault in 2014-15. He worked with law enforcement professionals, advocates, college administrators and others to develop a list of recommendations to improve how universities in Virginia handle sexual assault. 
  • Collaborating with partners across the university, the police department developed comprehensive VCU Alert messaging for sexual assaults. An email message lists an extensive number of resources both on and off campus for survivors; it is being used statewide as a template for other universities. 
  • VCU Police has a designated victim-witness officer to work with survivors of sexual assault. Each patrol shift also has an officer trained as a victim specialist to respond to survivors 24/7. 
  • In spring 2015, Venuti collaborated with VCU’s Division of Student Affairs and the City of Richmond to launch a Start by Believing awareness campaign at VCU. The message? When someone reports a sexual assault to you, start by believing them. Nearly 1,000 people at VCU pledged support.


Community Engagement and Collaboration

  • Venuti designated an external relations officer to work directly with citizens living in the neighborhoods surrounding VCU. The officer handles off-campus noise complaints and is a point person for civic associations, landlords and business owners. 
  • Patrol officers routinely check in with local businesses in what the department refers to as “merchant checks.” As part of patrolling VCUPD jurisdiction, officers speak with business owners, managers and employees to discuss crime prevention efforts. 
  • Officers and staff have participated in numerous fundraisers – and raised thousands of dollars each year – to benefit the VCU Massey Cancer Center, FRIENDS Association for Children in Richmond, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Special Olympics Virginia and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

 
Accreditation and Policing by the Numbers

  • VCU Police earned a four-year accreditation from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators in 2014. This accreditation is the gold standard for campus law enforcement and the department completed a full review of policies and procedures. 
  • The department has seen a steady decline in robberies. In 2009-2010, VCU Police handled 26 robberies, but that number dropped to 10 for the 2014-15 academic year. Larcenies have also decreased. 
  • Each year since 2010, there’s been a decrease in use of force by officers. 
  • An annual perception of safety survey of students, faculty and staff measures how safe the VCU community feels on each campus. In spring 2015, 96.5 percent of respondents reported feeling safe or very safe. In addition to asking about feelings of safety, the survey collects data on other police services and gives respondents the chance to report unsafe areas on campuses. 

 

Featured image up top : Chief John Venuti accepts a Campus Safety Director of the Year award from Robin Hattersley, the executive director of Campus Safety Magazine.

 

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.