UW Oshkosh Police award safe students

Cari Fehler

When Kurt Leibold took over as chief of campus police at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in February 2016, he noticed that many students and faculty were crossing streets in violation of pedestrian laws. This prompted a partnership with a criminal justice class to collect data on exactly how prevalent of a problem this was on the UWO campus.
They came back with a shocking statistic: 80 percent of pedestrians on campus were crossing roadways incorrectly or distractedly.
“I was shocked,” Leibold said, “and it’s not just students; it’s faculty, it’s staff, it’s everybody.”
Leibold said the fault does not necessarily fall on students or faculty.
“We started taking a look at the crosswalks we have, and the buttons to cross are really confusing sometimes,” Leibold said. “What I found out from asking students ‘why don’t you push the button?’ they say because the light is on so long, they don’t want to inconvenience the drivers. They were being polite.”
In spring 2016 campus police implemented a program to encourage students and faculty to abide by pedestrian laws when crossing streets on campus. In lieu of issuing 80 percent of campus-goers jaywalking tickets, Leibold had an idea: Titan Tokens.
According to Leibold, the initiative is based on positive reinforcement as opposed to attempting to punish students.
“Instead of writing tickets to people who break the law, let’s give something to the people who are actually doing it right,” Leibold said.
Senior Shelby Luedtke said she believes the strategy of using Titan Tokens is a good plan on the University Police’s part.
“I think positive reinforcement was a good idea,” Luedtke said.
In its early beginnings, the initiative had campus police officers or community service officers give out Titan Tokens to someone they saw push the button for the walk signal before crossing a street, properly exercising pedestrian safety.
After collecting three tokens, students can redeem them at the campus police station for a free t-shirt. The program has expanded to include prizes such as free tickets to UWO athletic events and food vouchers.
The program has also begun to expand its objectives beyond pedestrian safety. Leibold said a community service officer crossed paths with three students helping another inebriated student get back to their dorm safely, and rather than getting them in trouble, that officer handed out Titan Tokens to the three assisting students.
“If the cops are out there and see you doing the right thing, you’re going to get a Titan Token,” Leibold said. “Doing the right thing happens on this campus every day.”
During the 2016 fall semester, another criminal justice class will collect data again to see if Titan Tokens have made a true statistical change in pedestrian law violations on campus.
According to Leibold, the Titan Tokens represent building positive rapport between campus police and UWO students.
“We want to police this community the way they want to be policed,” Liebold said.
Junior Hallie Martin said she believes the program would be beneficial to schools across the country.
“It should continue to other campuses to teach other kids to be safe too,” Martin said.
Senior CSO Allie Wilke, a criminal justice major and psychology minor, said she hopes students take away from the Titan Token program.
“All in all I just want students to know this isn’t supposed to be a hassle,” Wilke said. “It’s for your own safety. It also gives officers a chance to get out there and meet the students. If students get a chance go out and talk to an officer, they’re actually awesome people trying to make this campus a better place.”
Do the right thing, Titans, and you may just earn yourself a Token.