One of Vanguard’s strongest selling points is that the Costa Mesa Police Station is stationed right by the school, meaning that in an emergency, police could be on the scene in minutes.
As a student, I was happy to find out about the low rate of crime on campus. According to Vanguard’s crime reports, there were 0 on-campus rapes, robberies, motor vehicle thefts, and aggravated assaults in 2022. However, low on-campus crime rates and a top-notch Campus Safety Department don’t necessarily mean that students shouldn’t take precautions regarding protection from crime. Campus Safety Director Kenton Ferron said, “I would say it’s a safe campus and we should always be taking precautions.”
I was shocked to discover that Costa Mesa has a higher crime rate than 95% of communities in America, with 1 in 227 of its residents being a victim of violent crimes such as aggravated assault, rape, or murder. As a Costa Mesa resident, my experience on the sidewalks hasn’t been entirely safe. In Oct. 2023, I was walking across the Vanguard parking lot to Starbucks when I realized I was being followed by a man who appeared to be on drugs on a bike. I changed the direction I was walking many times, and he continued to follow me. Thankfully, I made it safely to Starbucks and the man disappeared. When I told Campus Safety about this incident, they informed me that if something similar ever happens in the future, they would be one call away from escorting me on my walk. Later, I learned that another female student had been groped by a man on a bike right by campus just one day prior, and realized how lucky I had been.
It’s not surprising that there are risks to walking on the Cosa Mesa sidewalks, but how can we ensure that students are safe in their residence halls?
Many crime alerts from Campus Safety have been quite alarming, such as one received in October 2023 that said: Michael Roldan gained entry through a “propped” door on the east side of Huntington Hall on the morning of 10-9-23…While hallucinating, Roldan called CMPD and said he was being pursued by a subject with a firearm… A brief lockdown alert was sent to students in Huntington Hall and Laguna Hall. After searching the 6th floor, CMPD located Roldan hiding in the lounge area.
As someone who resides in Laguna Hall, it was quite concerning to realize that a stranger could easily enter my living quarters. This incident was an important reminder to keep our doors locked, make sure outside doors aren’t propped open, and make others aware of the danger of letting non-students into buildings.
I spoke with Kenton Ferrin, Director of Campus Safety at Vanguard, to learn more about how students can stay safe on and off campus. He told me, “I would encourage situational awareness, some people are walking around with very little situational awareness, with their face just in their phone… I think that trusting the ‘spidey sense’ is something that you should invest in. If you think that something is suspicious, or is unusual, then don’t go into that space…Tomorrow, Campus Safety is putting on Pepper Spray Training, and we’re going to provide the pepper spray as well. And we’re also going to put on courses where if you want to get Physical Defense Training, so I would say to take advantage of all of those things.”
He also wanted students to know that, “The more that you are confident in the things you have and the more you are assertive in the way you carry yourself, anyone wanting to harm you is going to have greater challenges and perceive that you are a person who is not an ‘easy victim.’”
After learning about protection from crime on campus, I wanted to discover what can be done on the political level to reduce crime off campus. It just so happened that I know an expert. Gracie Golden is a Vanguard Alumni who graduated with a History and Political Science degree in 2023. She is now the Co-Founder and Director of a non-profit organization called We Are Costa Mesa. The organization aims to educate the city’s residents on the issues that matter and promote citizen engagement, whether that means heading to the polls on election day or bringing a petition to the city council. One of the issues that We Are Costa Mesa is taking action on is that of public safety.
I asked Gracie why Costa Mesa is experiencing such high crime rates, and what political action could be taken on the local level to reduce it. She told me:
“The policies on the local level aren’t necessarily going to make a change. What it is, is the city council that we have right now is very invested in pleasing Sacramento. It’s more the state policies coming down from Sacramento that are putting more pressure on our police, trying to limit the influence that we have, and our local electeds are bowing to that. We believe that the police are doing the best job that they can with what they’ve been given, but I’ve heard from people that at any given time in Costa Mesa, we have less than eight police cars out there for 10,000 people, that doesn’t sound quite right, I’ve heard as low as four [police cars]. It’s really more of an attitude and a culture than a policy. On the local level more than anything, your vote matters. So if crime is something that you are worried about, vote for the candidates who are outspoken in their support for the police, vote for the candidates who are going to vote to be harder on criminals, not softer.”
I’m thankful to be a part of a school community that values the safety of our students. It’s important to remember to keep your head high and to use your voice to vote for elected officials who value safety. And if you see something, say something.