Change comes to the office of Campus Police

The office of Campus Police is getting some reinforcements.

Three campus security officers have been promoted and will join the force as full-time police officers this semester. Officer Charles Clement was sworn in on Christmas Eve, while security officers Brendan Keats and Patrick Taylor were promoted during a ceremony at Campus Police headquarters on Monday.

“We are gaining ground slowly,” police Chief John Collins said. “I’m optimistic that we will be near fully staffed sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.”

Collins was joined by College President R. Barbrara Gitenstein and New Jersey Deputy Attorney General John Franzini in swearing in the two new cops.

As The Signal first reported in April 2008, the office of Campus Police has struggled to retain a “full complement” of officers for several years. The College officially recognizes 21 officers as a full staff.

Collins and his staff also said goodbye to Sgt. Donald Rizzo, presenting him with a commemorative plaque and retirement badge for his 25 years of service.

Rizzo retired on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Collins said with Rizzo’s departure and the addition of Officers Keats, Taylor and Clement, the department now has a staff of 17 sworn officers.

“Having our full complement of officers is absolutely something that helps to ensure we have a safe and secure campus,” Golden said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve wanted to have a full complement of officers. There have been more impediments in the hiring process but some of those have been alleviated now.”

Golden added that the installation of new officers was not in response to “any previous criminal activity.” During the Fall 2008 semester, the campus fell victim to a string of car thefts from Lot 6 and a Halloween robbery/shooting outside the Brower Student Center.

While there has not been an arrest in either incident, law enforcement agencies have recovered all but two of the cars stolen from Lot 6 during the semester-long crime spree that saw criminals use a set of motor vehicle master keys to boost seven cars from the College’s largest parking deck.

According to Collins, two cars were recovered over Winter Break, with the most recent vehicle found in Mercer County. Police at the scene also recovered a set of “wiggle keys,” which Collins described as keys that were filed down to fit a lock, inside the stolen car.

The Philadelphia Police Department recovered a Nissan stolen from Lot 6 on Dec. 14, but Collins could not confirm that an arrest was made.

Law enforcement agencies have not been able to find the man wanted for questioning in the semester-long crime spree either. In November of 2008, Campus Police released a sketch of a 20 to 22-year-old male who was seen driving a stolen blue-green Honda out of Lot 6 on Oct. 20. The 5-foot 8-inch, 170-pound suspect was last seen exiting Lot 6 around 2:40 p.m. on Oct. 20.

The police sketch, which was distributed last semester, said the suspect was seen wearing a collared gray jacket, and has dark hair and complexion and a medium build.

In addition to last semester’s car thefts, a series of property thefts prompted the office of Campus Police to send a timely warning e-mail to students on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“Since the start of the spring semester, (Campus) Police have had reports of 10 personal property thefts that have occurred in parking lots and campus buildings,” the e-mail read. “Although these incidents were crimes against property and do not appear to constitute a threat to the personal safety, they are disturbing. In reviewing these cases, we have noticed that in all but one, the property was left in unlocked cars or rooms and was readily visible, or was left unattended in a public place.”

Collins said items that have gone missing included iPods, back packs and wallets. He also described the property thefts as “crimes of opportunity.”

“The common denominator is that the victim said they left their door unlocked, left their car unlocked,” he said. “Every single one of these was a preventable incident.”

Campus Police asked that students do everything they can to prevent criminal activity by securing their property, and to call campus police at x2345 if they notice any suspicious activity.

In addition to the added presence of three new police officers on campus this semester, both Collins and Golden said the College is still considering installing video surveillance at specific locations on campus.

“The College is discussing cameras but we don’t want to go about it haphazardly,” Collins said. “Things like that have to get phased in over a period of time. We want to make sure we’re spending the money in the right direction.”

Golden confirmed the possibility of added video surveillance and mentioned that he anticipates the results of the campus-wide security audit to be released sometime during the semester.

James Queally can be reached at queally2@tcnj.edu.