University of Florida relaxes policy on defensive sprays

In light of the recent attacks in and around campus, the UF Police Department is relaxing its policy on defensive products such as pepper spray and mace, according to UF police spokesman, Maj. William Barber. This new policy may be especially important at Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game against Kentucky.

“We’re talking an evening game that maybe people will feel the need to carry those products,” Barber said, “So we want them to have that capability, especially as you’re coming into the stadium and then when they leave the stadium they may need it as well. So that’s going to be something that they’ll be allowing for.”

Under the ‘Game Day’ tab on www.gatorzone.com there is a list of items prohibited during various sporting events on the University of Florida campus. The last two items on that list are ‘weapons’ and ‘any items deemed hazardous by game management personnel.’

First-year UF microbiology and cell science major Monica Martinez, 18, believes that students should be able to carry pepper spray or mace on campus, especially at football games.

“I always bring pepper spray to the games,” Martinez said. “I carry pepper spray because my parents wouldn’t let me go to college without it. It was a birthday present, believe it or not.”

Madison Belfour, an 18-year-old UF public relations freshman, said she carries pepper spray wherever she goes and will also have it with her at tomorrow’s game.

“I feel safer knowing that I have it and I feel as though every student should be armed with something,” Belfour said. “Back in my high school, nobody carried pepper spray or defensive weapons. Here, I see tons of girls doing it and I feel so much better about it, knowing that these girls can protect themselves if they need to.”

Although these methods of defense are useful in an attack, Barber said it is important to not become overly reliant upon it. He said personal initiatives like fitness or taking a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class are just as critical.

“What we don’t want is for individuals to think, oh, well I have this mace. I’m okay,” Barber said. “You should not think that way. You should always be thinking about the safety tips that we push out there and have pushed out there everyday. Every single day this should be the case, not just because there have been incidents that have happened to women in and around campus in the last week and a half or so.”

Barber urges everyone to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to report anyone or anything that seems suspicious to the police.

“People say, ‘Well I’m embarrassed,’ or ‘I don’t want to call police,’ or whatever,” Barber said. “Don’t be. Let us take the opportunity to look into what it is you feel is suspicious and let us investigate that person. Let us investigate what may be taking place. Without that opportunity, we may miss something significant.”

For more information on campus policies call 352-392-5447 or to report suspicious activity contact the Campus Security Authority Report Line at 352-494-6068.

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