Johns Hopkins Gazette | March 23, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 23, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 27
Sometimes, Campus Safety Is a Laughing Matter

Will Kirk directs the Blue Jay and his fine feathered friends in last week's photo shoot. Next month, the three will be poster boys for good safety practices.
Photo by Jay VanRensselaer / HIPS

By Amy Lunday

Why did the Blue Jay, the Oriole and the Raven cross Charles Street? To get to the other side, of course. But their winged migration wasn't just a flight of fancy: The birds of a feather were flocking together for their starring role in the latest lighthearted public service poster by Homewood's Office of Campus Safety and Security Services, premiering in April.

There have been 12 posters in the series so far, updated on a monthly basis in 16 buildings on the campus, according to Ed Skrodzki, executive director of Safety and Security Services. Skrodzki said the goal is to raise crime prevention awareness by providing a safety message in a relatable way.

With students as the target audience, each poster delivers a serious message with a silly slogan and eye-catching image, brainstormed during morning staff meetings in his office. The posters draw attention to some easy ways students and others can avoid common mistakes that may make them a mark for lurking ne'er-do-wells. One poster features two young women, one holding a cell phone aloft while staring curiously at a pink elephant lounging on Levering Plaza. "If it doesn't look right, call Security!" the poster cries. Another shows a laptop computer with googly eyes, the university seal for a nose on its "face" (the laptop's screen) and Photoshopped legs strolling out of a student's room. Its catchphrase: "A laptop doesn't just walk away ... Lock your door!"

The stars of the posters are often decked out in cumbersome animal costumes — besides the elephant, there's a big furry cat burglar, a hungry brown bear and an alligator — and they're always Johns Hopkins students corralled at the last minute by Skrodzki and his team. The overall effect of the posters is like listening to somebody else's mildly embarrassing dad deliver corny punch lines at a party. Eyes are rolling, but people are paying attention, and that's the whole point, Skrodzki said.

"The humor makes [students] respond to the posters — we have received numerous positive responses from students, as well as faculty and staff, regarding the posters," Skrodzki said. "And there has been a decrease in crime, which is due to several crime prevention initiatives. The posters are one of the initiatives, and I believe they certainly contribute."

In preparation for the next poster, the Blue Jay and his pals spent a chilly morning last week strutting around the campus as a trio of avian ambassadors, promoting the notion that there is safety in numbers and that traveling in groups is a smart idea. Photographers Will Kirk and Jay VanRensselaer of Homewood Imaging and Photographic Services were there to capture scenes set by Skrodzki and Lt. Steve Ossmus, whom Skrodzki credits as the chief slogan generator. The mascots ambled down the hill, wing to wing to wing, in front of Homewood Museum. They grinned in front of a Security van parked in front of Mason Hall. They posed with staffers outside Steinwald Alumni House. Look for the winning pose to land on campus sometime next month.

All the posters — for those who missed them the first time around — can be viewed online at:


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