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“That’s it one more,” Professor Badders says.

Short bursts of laughter spread throughout the room.

“Like this. Can you all do that?”

Standing in ready position with legs shoulder-width apart, Badders faces the class assisted by one of his students. He blows gently onto the palm of his left hand, followed by his students mimicking his instruction, trying not to laugh as they do so.

“Pretty easy right?” he asks them.

With the student’s hand gripped tightly around his right forearm, Badders performs a swift move to break the grip and reposition his body closer to the student, letting out short gasps and grunts.

“Let’s try again,” he says grunting with encouragement for his student to tighten his grip.

Let’s do it twice he says, blowing twice on his palm, performing the action again. The students laugh once more.

“Alright one more time, I like this.” He grunts again, this time a bit longer and then blows twice onto the palm of his hand and then says, “how about one on the back,” and he lets out a long breath of air onto the back of his hand.

He does the move for a third time, breaking the grip and progressing toward the next step in the process: getting into position to strike.

“How long did it take for me to teach you that? One minute and three seconds, and what did you learn? You learned a technique.”

Now it gets quiet.

Badders reflects back many years ago when he was much younger and not as wise, joking about how his ego wouldn’t be able to fit inside the classroom. One time at that level of training, he sat down and wrote 64 ways of self-defense he knew with that technique which he had just demonstrated. The only trouble was, in the heat of battle you can’t exactly say let’s do 32B right now because that’s a given technique. Surely, his lecture was meant to send a deeper message beyond memorizing techniques.

“If I can give you a principle like that, you can take it with you for the rest of your life.”

***

Towson University officials claim to be one of the safest campuses in Maryland, but once students cross York Road toward the Cardiff and Donnybrook Apartments crime becomes more of a threat.

It seems there is a dramatic rise in crime, but that’s not necessarily the case after a report was released in January, by the Baltimore County Police Department in 2013.  The Towson precinct had seven more cases of robbery, 25 more cases of violent crimes, and 66 more cases of theft compared to the five-year average for the same time frame from January to September 2013.

There was a 6 percent increase from the previous nine months according to a recent log released by Baltimore County Police in January. Although the rates haven’t skyrocketed students question their safety.

“I don’t feel safe walking to my car at night because of everything that has happened this past semester,” Towson student Summer Robinson said.

Robinson also thinks that if the violence continues, it will steer future students away from wanting to attend the university.

According to the Towson University Police Department’s crime log, there have been more than 50 cases on the university premise in the month of February. Those crimes don’t include what is going on in downtown Towson or in nearby apartment complexes.

The crimes that have been logged consist of anything from hit-and-runs and robberies, to assaults and domestic disputes.

***

According to Baltimore County Police Captain Richard Howard, recent crime rates in Towson are a direct result of the increased presence of cell phones.

The difference from 2012 to 2013, and now continuing into the New Year, is that students’ phones are a primary target to steal.  They can be stolen and taken to kiosk machines in places like the Towson Town Center, to then be sold for quick cash.  These kiosk machines were recently shut down last month.

Mobile phones can sell for up to $200 to $300 or more. Ten phones stolen per day translate into about $1,000 or more. Of course not all cell phones are worth that much. Basic flip phones and sliding phones from the early 2000s do not interest the typical robbery suspect.

“If you know what kind of phone it is, you can calculate about how much it can be sold for,” Capt. Howard said.

Capt. Howard says this problem stems from possible suspects riding the bus from the city to the county. Public transportation allows for many inner city residents to access malls and other shopping centers in the suburbs of Baltimore. As a precaution, the Maryland Transit Authority is making announcements to passengers, reminding them to take care of all their electronics while aboard the bus.

Towson students aren’t the only ones being affected by this issue. Just about anyone who lives in the Towson area is at risk. Suspects are driving around in cars looking for individuals on their phones. They often park around the corner after spotting someone using their phone in a secluded area, and then make their move.

As a result, Capt. Howard is encouraging anyone walking on Towson’s campus or in the surrounding area, to be mindful of their surroundings. The way he sees it, walking around while using a smartphone is like holding $300.

“If I had $300 in my hand, I probably wouldn’t flash it around,” Howard said. “Adapt to your environment. If your environment is known for having phones being snatched, you might want to discretely utilize your phone.”

Howard would like to think the impact this issue has on the campus is everyone being cohesive and working together. Awareness is a concern, and everyone needs to just look after each other.

“Baltimore County Police isn’t telling students how they should live their lives, but it’s important to know that someone could be watching you when you’re on your phone,” Howard said.

On Feb. 11, Howard met with the Towson University Police to discuss ways of reducing crime by making sure lighting is sufficient around campus. Many students take night classes, making after-hours dangerous to walk around in.

***

Towson University has various precautions and safety measures for both students and faculty to follow. In the event of an emergency, there is a direct line to call to get in contact with the university police. Towson also has blue light emergency phones located around campus that are equipped with simple buttons which can be pressed for help.

The Campus Emergency Text Message Notification System is another excellent resource. This system notifies anyone who signs up for it about safety issues, school closings and weather alerts. There is an easy registration process to follow to make sure you are up to date with the latest information.

In order to make sure you are fully prepared for an emergency, there is a video to watch on the university website. The video provides useful tips for responding safely and effectively in emergency situations. The video encourages you to print and complete the emergency pocket guide and keep it in an easy to reach place.

It is best to avoid walking home alone and it is recommended to use Safe Ride. This is an on-campus shuttle service that operates between 2:30 a.m and 6 a.m. Monday through Sunday. The Escort Service is an additional service provided by university police. The service is provided from nightfall to 6 a.m. for areas not served by the shuttle bus.

Some residential security tips are to always lock your doors even if you are going next door for less than a minute. Nearly all residential burglaries on campus occur when the victim’s door is unlocked.  To avoid theft by roommates or other individuals invited to your room, place all valuables in a small personal safe.

There are safety programs led by the Towson University Police Department to educate students, faculty and staff members to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of crime.  These programs consist of Rape and Aggression Defense, Operation ID and Operation KeepSafe.  RAD is a free rape and aggression defense course. The four-week course offers hands-on training in easy and effective self-defense tactics.

Operation ID promotes the safety of private property by engraving valuables with identification information that increase chances of recovery in the event of theft. Operation KeepSafe is a crime prevention and emergency preparedness program where the university police conduct individual safety presentations to student and faculty groups.

In the past year when crime strikes, the university has hired the help of Baltimore County Police Department to help patrol. Towson Citizens on Patrol also help to watch over the nearby neighborhoods.

The patrol is led by Towson alumnus David Anderson and Vice President Pat France of the Downtown Towson Citizens on Patrol. The patrol regained popularity in November 2013 after being inactive for several years.

“The Citizens on Patrol is a national effort in which the people who want to patrol the area are trained by the police department,” France said.

The group doesn’t deal directly with Towson University because it is taken care of by campus police. The main purpose is to patrol the Towson bar area which directly affects nearby students. France says some of the best people to get involved in patrolling would be the students because they are the ones out downtown late at night when most of the crime is taking place.

Other precautions include sending e-mail chains, officers being stationed near potential crime areas, and letting patrol officers know that phones are being targeted.

The Baltimore County Police Department is getting information out at public meetings to community leaders and students. The police have worked to eliminate kiosk machines, however, the remaining kiosks are requiring a form of identification, and dispersing checks rather than cash. Howard says this method will make it more difficult for suspects to get away with retrieving money so fast.

Community Outreach Officer Kia Williams educates students on cellphone safety.  Williams specifically targets incoming freshmen to address this issue.

“There was a message sent out on T3, Towson Tigers Today, when school first opened,” Williams said.  “The message warned students to not walk and text or talk and walk at the same time.”

Williams gives not only freshmen important, detailed information on cellphone safety, but sororities and fraternities as well.  She also moderates and updates the Towson University Police Department Facebook page.  This is an excellent way for the Towson community to be informed about the latest campus news.

Recently, Williams posted a message on Facebook about an app for Android and iPhone users.  This apps allows anyone to track their lost or stolen cellphone.

***

Like Howard, Badders’ has a word of advice for Towson students to keep safe.

“Move to Scotland, get a castle and put a moat around it,” he says. “No that’s a smartass answer, the first thing is recognition.”

Recognizing the potential of becoming a victim is important. In general, be aware of the surrounding area, because it’s easy to pick off any person walking alone especially when their attention is consumed by a phone.

“The fact that we’re close to a bus line and a major community doesn’t help. Towson isn’t the nice and safe place is used to be 25 years ago.”

For over 30 years, Badders has encountered dozens of scenarios where students of his have been previous victims of assault or crime, or they lived in a neighborhood where they knew they could’ve ended up in that situation. Any degree where students can get experience with self-defense is helpful.

Badders recalls a past case where a Baltimore City man was assaulted. Reconsider the situation if he was in the company of another person or two, what are the chances of that happening again? The old rule of traveling in packs still applies to anyone.

“Some of the things we teach are what to wear and not wear,” he says. “If you wear high-heeled shoes you can’t run as fast. Long hair and necklaces allow for something to grab onto which creates an advantage.”

Carrying a gun or a knife isn’t necessarily the answer either. People must realize how to use items as simple as a backpack for a potential weapon.

Now, do you change your whole life as a result to crime? Of course not, but it’s the little things that matter.

Students are taught how to fight like a cat, not like a dog. It’s about learning the human anatomy to understand weaknesses. Self-defense doesn’t involve fighting muscle against muscle. Even Badders isn’t the kind of person to reflect on instances where he had to fight someone and practice his self-defense.

“It’s not important what I can do, it’s important of what I can get my students to do.”

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