What I Learned about Crime on Campus

Campus Chiefs of Police Paul Ronka and Dave McCoy spoke at our Sisters in Crime - Central Virginia meeting this week about crime on campus. And yes, someone did ask, "where's the best place to hide a body" on a college campus.

Here's what I learned from both of them. One serves a commuter campus with three locations in Central Virginia, while the other serves a larger private college, where most of the students live on campus.

  • If you're writing a mystery about college life, most incidents happen in the wee hours.
  • While most of what they deal with are parking, stolen items, underage drinking, narcotics, and sexual assaults, their officers are now trained to deal with active shooter or hostage scenarios. They conduct regular training with students and faculty. Life has changed for law enforcement after Columbine. The strategy used to be to set up a perimeter, wait for the SWAT team, and try to engage the shooter in negotiations. Now, the focus is for the first officers on scene to do a tactical entry and locate the shooter.
  • When events occur on campus, their officers are involved with the investigation, but they also involve the local police, state police, FBI, and Homeland Security, as needed.
  • Chief McCoy's campus requires study abroad for many of its students, so he is often called upon to worth with the state department and law enforcement agencies in other countries when incidents or crimes occur involving students from his campus.
  • Both are also responsible for emergency training and drills for earthquakes, hurricanes, and other catastrophic events. They have a variety of tools and alert systems for emergency notifications.
  • After the horrific college campus shootings, colleges in Virginia now have Threat Assessment Teams to evaluate and investigate safety concerns and incidents. These teams determine the best plan of action for the safety of the campus and the students involved.
  • If you're a writer, you need to check out Yik Yak. It's an anonymous site where people (usually college) students in about a mile-radius of your location post comments about all kinds of topics.

Neither officer gave us the "best place to hide a body," but they did talk about maintenance tunnels, steam tunnels, and rooftops. I'm sure there are lots of interesting locations on a college campus...

l - r: Dave McCoy, Cynthia Price, and Paul Ronka

Nov. 21 Lethal Ladies' Lunch Break - Fountain Bookstore

Join the Lethal Ladies at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA from 12:30 - 2:30 on Friday, November 21. Signed mysteries make great holiday gifts.

Come out and see Sisters in Crime members Mary Miley, Donna Andrews, Mary Burton, Lyndee Walker, Vivian Lawry, and me. We'll have signed copies of Virginia is for Mysteries.


Local Authors' Showcase - Henrico Public Libraries

Virginia is for Mysteries authors, Vivian Lawry, Rosemary Shomaker, Maggie King, Fiona Quinn, and I, had the pleasure of hosting a "Making Mysteries" panel recently at the Tuckahoe Library. It is always a lot of fun to talk with readers and other writers about their love of mysteries. Thanks to everyone who came out for the Authors' Showcase.

L-R: Fiona Quinn, Rosemary Shomaker, Heather Weidner, Vivian Lawry, and Maggie King

L-R: Fiona Quinn, Rosemary Shomaker, Heather Weidner, Vivian Lawry, and Maggie King

What Books Are on Your Nightstand?

I was asked recently what books are on my nightstand as part of the #SinC-up and #SincBlogHop. Right now, this is what's queued up.

I'm really excited to read Mary Miley's Silent Murders and Mary Ellen Taylor's Sweet Expectations. I'm also working on Writes of Passage, edited by Hank Phillippi Ryan.  I also have three or four ebooks on my iPad that I need to get to. There's never enough time for reading.

What's on your nightstand?

My Two Cents about Writing...

This month, I'm participating with other bloggers in the Sisters in Crime Blog Hop.

What are some things that new writers need to know?

1. Good writing is work. If you want to be a writer, you need to make time to improve your craft. This means writing and rewriting.

2. Write. Write. Write. Keep writing. Dreaming about being an author doesn't cut it.

3. Spend time proofreading and editing. If you're not good at it, find someone who is.

4. Find a good critique group. You need people to read your draft and provide constructive feedback. I love my mystery group (SinC-Central Virginia). It's made up of readers and writers. They don't pull punches, and that's what I need to improve.

5. Use social media to network with other writers, agents, and readers. Build your platform. But balance your networking and writing time.

6. Be strong. There are going to be rejections, bad critiques, and not so favorable reviews. Learn from them and move on. It stings, but take what you can, and don't dwell on them. And don't obsess about your number of followers, sales, and reviews. It will make you crazy.

7. Have fun. Enjoy what you do and every step in the process. I can't explain the joy that comes when you see your author's copy or your name on the cover.

For more writing blogs, check out Maggie King's site. Also see #SinCBlogHop and #SinC-Up.

You can find me on Twitter @CrazyforWords13 and on Facebook.