MTSU Police Putting Over $1.8M in State Grants into Campus Infrastructure, Traffic Safety

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Middle Tennessee State University Police Lt. Jon Leverette shows off the department’s new radar speed trailer, which the department applied for and purchased with the help of a Tennessee Highway Safety Office grant. (MTSU photo by Stephanie Wagner)

Middle Tennessee State University’s Police Department recently used funding from two state grants — totaling over $1.8 million — to put toward safety improvements across campus.

MTSU landed the funds from the Office of Criminal Justice Programs’ Higher Education Safety Grant within the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration earlier this year as part of a larger pot of $30 million split between other state higher education institutions.

The department also earned a $5,000 High Visibility Enforcement Grant from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office to improve traffic safety across campus.

Higher Education Safety Grant

After landing the state’s funds earlier this year, MTSU Police Chief Ed Kaup said he worked with Alan Thomas, vice president for business and finance, and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs to form a committee that met several times over the course of a month to decide how to allocate the $1.8 million.

“The committee included executives from within our Police Department, the Division of Business and Finance, the Information Technology Division, Facility Services, Events and Transportation, and the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance,” Kaup said. “Once the plan was developed, it was approved by University President Sidney A. McPhee and eventually the Tennessee state office that issued the grant.”

Kaup outlined the multiple improvements the committee decided on.

“The largest expenditure from this grant will be to replace the existing lighting in all of our parking lots with LED lighting, which is much brighter and energy efficient,” he said. “We will also add solar-powered lighting to all bus stops on campus.

“We’ll be able to purchase mobile weapons detection systems to be used at events on campus to scan for weapons and also purchase RFID, or radio frequency identification, cards to add additional, more secure electronic doors to buildings.

“For the police department itself, we’ll purchase new in-car radios that allow for our officers to send and receive transmissions from the Murfreesboro Police Department and Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, allowing for an open communication and coordination channel in the event of a mutijurisdictional response. Along with these radio upgrades, we can replace the battery backups in our radio towers used both for police and the university as a whole.”

The university is working to add these enhancements as quickly as possible with a deadline of completing the upgrades by next summer.

Kaup emphasized the vast impact these changes will have on campus.

“The lighting, electronic access and weapons detection are huge steps for the university and will have an immediate, visible impact on our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” he said.

High Visibility Enforcement Grant

Lt. Jon Leverette led the coordination of earning the $5,000 from the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, an ongoing grant that the department applies for each year.

“We designated $4,000 to be used for the purchase of equipment — namely a radar speed trailer — and $1,000 to be put toward officer overtime pay for enforcement campaigns,” Leverette said.

Since receiving the trailer this spring, officers tow and set up the trailer at key roads across campus where the device displays oncoming vehicles’ speed and collects data ranging from speed to traffic patterns, helping the department not only increase speeding awareness but also better analyze and work to improve traffic flow issues.

“The week we hosted local high school graduations at the Murphy Center in the evenings, the trailer recorded over 60,000 vehicles on Middle Tennessee Boulevard,” Leverette said.

Both Kaup and Leverette said the department is consistently on the lookout for grants to help bolster campus safety.

“We are routinely seeking and applying for grant funding to better the university,” Kaup said. “When we see grants that we may qualify for and which we believe would help the university, we put in the work and apply for them. It is always worth the try.”

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