>> Jackson County

Watch for Me NC in Jackson County

  • Watch for Me NC participant during: 2014
  • Population: 40,800
  • Lead agency: Western Carolina University Police Department

Situated in the southwestern part of the state, Jackson County, is home to about 41,000 residents. Cullowhee is the county seat and also the location of West Carolina University (WCU), an institution boasting 11,500 students and staff. There is a student residential community around WCU, and while housing options are expanding not all housing developments are connected to campus by sidewalks. As a predominantly rural community, many students and staff commute by driving, which creates conflicts between pedestrians and motorists. The University has noted that large parking lots and high traffic intersections near campus have higher crash potential, as students cross on their way to and from class. The Watch for Me NC campaign is part of a series of recent initiatives to improve the safety and walkability in Jackson County. For example, Highway 107 passes through campus, and until recently did not have crosswalks. In recent years, the County and Cullowhee have worked to stripe crosswalks, install pedestrian signals, and site a transit stop to reduce vehicle traffic and help students get across the roadway safely.

The WCU Police Department has led the Watch for Me NC effort in Jackson County, and works closely with local agencies in implementing campaign activities. Partners have included the Cullowhee Police Department and Health Department, Sylva Police Department, Jackson County Safe Kids, and the local cycling club.

Education and Enforcement Activities Conducted
Watch for Me NC partners have worked closely with WCU to improve campus safety. Flyers were sent to on-campus administrators to post in residence halls, and enforcement activities were conducted at several high-traffic areas on campus. WCU Police Department have issued citations to drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians violating traffic laws while traveling through campus. The Sylva Police Department posted campaign sandwich boards at areas on the WCU campus with the highest concentration of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Key Outcomes
Sergeant Jacob Deal of the WCU Police Department highlighted the positive outcomes of the local Watch for Me NC program, including increased engagement and understanding: “There is more awareness. By at least going out with pamphlets, boards, and lights, [people are] more aware of everything that’s going on through Watch for Me NC.”

Lessons Learned

  • Seek new partners: In addition to engaging municipal agencies, the Watch for Me NC coalition in Jackson County includes Safe Kids and the local cycling club. These partners allowed WCU and other coalition members to expand their capacity. The more community partners there are, the less time it takes to put on programs and implement them. Sergeant Deal explained, “Bring in new people- make sure they know what’s going on. Catch them up to speed and coordinate education and enforcement efforts.”
  • Focus enforcement: With limited staff resources, targeted educational and enforcement efforts were a critical part of the Jackson County Watch for Me NC campaign. University police were able to identify areas of high concern to ensure more effective outreach.

Thank you to Sergeant Jacob Deal with the Western Carolina University Police Department for providing leadership, time and expertise that contributed to the Watch for Me NC Campaign in Jackson County and the writing of this profile.