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Several University administrators and community leaders told a small crowd of students yesterday that they must do everything they can to protect themselves from crime -- and then told them how to do it. Nine panelists spent nearly two hours giving students safety tips and outlining the University's safety services in a special student forum on security. Only about 20 students attended the Houston Hall forum, organized by College junior Lara Leibman. Most of them asked questions of the panelists, and all seemed to be satisfied with the answers. The overall message the panelists presented was that the University and the local community are making an effort to stop crime and that if students look out for themselves and their neighbors, the crime problem will decrease. "Whatever I tell you, you can still be a victim," warned Bruce Price, a crime prevention officer for the city's 18th Police District. "There's nothing that will protect you 100 percent. That's why it's important to do everything you can." "Keep it simple," he added. "Try to put as much protection on yourself as you can and if you're a victim, try to notice as much as you can so that we can possibly catch somebody." Senior Vice President Marna Whittington promised that security is the University's "top priority." "We need all of you as partners to try to reduce the opportunities for crime," Whittington said. "We're committed to making sure people know we're serious about crime on campus." Whittington said the University has a "three-pronged" plan of attack against crime. The first, she said, is the deterrent police provide. The second, she said, is to improve the environment in which students live. Automatic teller machines in dormitories, improvements to campus lighting, and transportation around campus all create a better environment. The third "prong," Whittington said, is an information network. She said the University has to let students know about the services that are available, and students need to report suspicious activity to police. "We want this campus safe for everyone in this community and if you have any ideas, we'd like to hear them," she said. Other speakers outlined their roles in this plan. University Police Captain John Richardson talked about the recent expansion of police patrols. Director of Off-Campus Living Eleni Zatz explained her department's off-campus housing security inspections. Blondell Reynolds, the director of the West Philadelphia Partnership, and Stephanie Washington, of Community Intervention Programs, also talked about their efforts. Reynolds told students they are not alone in their concern about crime. She said the local community is also "struggling" with the problem. Washington said students, living either on or off-campus, need to meet their neighbors and establish ties with people around them. Simply saying hello, she said, can help establish a basic relationship and enough caring that people will look out for each other.

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