Students living on campus can start feeling a little safer this week, as the office of Campus Police will begin a push to make their presence more recognizable throughout the College.
Starting today, security officers will assist community advisors (CAs) and other Residential Education and Housing (Res Ed) staff members in their duties, occasionally joining them on roves throughout the dorms and townhouses.
This new policy, along with several other changes within the office of Campus Police, are part of a larger initiative to move the campus policing philosophy closer to that of a “community policing model,” according to Police Chief John Collins.
“This is a way to be proactively engaged instead of just reacting to problems,” Collins said. “We’re out there looking to solve issues as they arise while they are still small issues rather than waiting for them to become big problems.”
The improvements to the department are also a part of “National Campus Safety Awareness Month.”
The plan, which was officially implemented during a kickoff meeting between Campus Police personnel, security officers and ResEd staff Sunday, will see six security officers assigned to patrol specific zones of campus housing. Officer patrol duties will be split between four areas: Travers/Wolfe halls, Lakeside housing (Allen, Brewster, Ely, Norsworthy and the New Residence halls), Cromwell and Decker halls and the Townhouses.
While the officers’ presence will be noticeable, Collins says they won’t be joining CAs every time they roam the halls.
“They’re not going to be holding hands with the CAs all night long,” he said.
Collins says the plan has been in the works since the end of the spring 2008 semester, when he began talks with James Norfleet, vice president of Student Life, and Sean Stallings, director of ResEd. He hopes that through this new policy, police officers and ResEd staff will be able to pre-empt health and safety issues that rise up periodically in the dorms.
“What we’re trying to do is to create a partnership between the security officers and the CAs. We want to become more engaged,” he said.
Sean Stallings, director of ResEd, could not be reached for comment.
Kellie Perkowsky, residence director of Wolfe Hall, said she was “excited by the idea” of working with Campus Police, but wouldn’t comment further until after yesterday’s meet-and-greet forum with the officers.
Some CAs were cautiously optimistic about the team-up with Campus Police. They spoke with The Signal only on the condition of anonymity because they are generally advised by their superiors not to give comment to the press.
“I think it might be intimidating to a lot of the residents on rove,” one CA said. “It might make it harder for them to relate on a personal level with us.”
Another CA said she would be happy to have the security officers join them on rove, citing her unhappiness on previous patrols with certified Campus Police officers.
“The (police) officers came last time and they were very strict,” she said. “But I’m glad it’s the security officers and not the police officers because their communication with the students is a lot better.”
Some underclassmen were displeased with the idea, doubting the need for further supervision of their homes away from home.
“It makes me feel awkward,” Calvin LeMatty, a freshman biology major living in Wolfe Hall, said. “Whenever you up the police force it makes you feel safer but it also makes you watch out for what you’re doing. You feel like you’re being judged.”
“I feel safe already,” Bobby Harrington, a freshman political science major who lives in Travers Hall, said. “I think they’re snooping around for stuff.”
But Collins said the new initiative has nothing to do with searching the dorms for underage drinking.
“It’s not intended to be a partying crackdown. It is a way to enhance the services we are providing to the community,” he said. “There may be times when it feels that way, but that is not the intent and I think if everyone has patience they will see this is going to make the campus a much better place.”
In addition to its involvement in residential life on campus, Campus Police is making strides toward attaining a full roster of officers.
The College considers 21 officers a full staff, but as The Signal reported in April, Campus Police has not been able to obtain a full complement of officers for several years.
According to Collins, one security officer is currently enrolled in the police academy and is expected to become a full-fledged Campus Police officer in February 2009.
Three security officers are also slated for promotions to police officer status in February 2009.
Previously, the College was not allowed to promote security officers to police status because of a strict set of standards handed down by the New Jersey Department of Personnel (DOP). But the College’s department of Human Resources won a ruling against the DOP in June, allowing the security officers a chance to earn badges.
“We were very pleased to get (the ruling),” Collins said. “It was really the doing of our Human Resources department.”
The office of Campus Police also expects to have a revamped Web site on the College’s server sometime in the next few weeks.
The site will host a bevy of features for students, including a crime blotter, a map of the emergency contact boxes on campus, a polling feature where students can express their opinion about the department’s actions and a mission statement written by Collins.
“We hope to eventually be able to put more information about more of the officers up there so people get to know more about us. We’d like to put names and faces together for everyone,” Collins said. “We’re trying to take a service-oriented approach to policing the community and this is an important tool to do outreach with.”
Collins again stressed the benefits of a community policing model in his mission statement that will be published once the site goes live next month.
“Embracing a community policing philosophy, we are able to create a partnership with our campus constituents as well as our neighbors,” Collins said. “A close community partnership is the best way to prevent crime and enhance safety.”
James Queally can be reached at email@example.com.