NORFOLK -- Crime at Old Dominion University is down, according to campus Police Chief Rhonda Harris.
She and her staff have crunched the numbers and found the campus is getting safer, despite a growing perception amongst students, parents and staff members that crime is on the rise.
"We've done a great job with maintaining and reducing crime here on campus," Harris said.
Her claims come at the end of a school year in which students fell victim to at least eight violent crimes on and around the school's campus.
The school is required by federal law to notify students about crimes that pose a threat to student safety. At ODU, the notifications come in the form of a timely warning email.
During the 2013-2014 school year, emails were sent for shootings near campus, multiple armed robberies of students on and near campus and a deadly assault that killed 20-year-old Paul Johnson.
Chief Harris said there was no way to have prevented Johnson's death.
"I wish 100 times we would have had a cop in the area or Norfolk would have had a cop drive through or something would have interrupted that from happening," Harris said.
However, Harris believes there was nothing ODU Police could have done to prevent the deadly assault.
"I think it would have been very difficult, other than somebody just by chance driving through that parking lot," she said.
Johnson was attacked across the street from ODU's campus. The closest blue light emergency call box was roughly a quarter mile away.
Blue light phones are commonly used at college campuses around Virginia and across the country to provide a quick way to communicate with police and to deter crime.
ODU has just 24 blue lights on campus. That number pales in comparison to other schools--both the same size or smaller that Old Dominion. For instance, Christopher Newport University has 42 blue lights. Norfolk State University, which has a closed and gated campus, has 26 blue lights across its campus.
Captain Scott Austin with the Christopher Newport University Police Department said the blue lights on his campus serve as both a deterrent and are an extra way for students to connect with police.
"The blue lights that you'll see on there and it says 'emergency' across it," Cpt. Austin explained. "So any bad guys that may come out on the university will obviously see that we have some kind of way to communicate with the police department."
But Harris said the blue lights at ODU are ineffective and seldom, if ever, used.
"They're not used," Harris said. "It's kind of replaced by the proliferation of cell phones that are out there and people are investing in other kinds of technology now."
Harris said her department is investing in more security cameras around campus, which she believes are more effective than blue lights at fighting crime.
The department is also studying ways to implement crime-fighting tactics in the areas immediately surrounding campus.
"One serious incident is too many," Harris said. "Nobody wants to send their child to school and have them be injured and certainly the university doesn't want somebody to be sent here and have them injured."