Public Safety lacks a student-supported response to recurring crime

Some students claim Public Safety fails to make students feel safe when strangers are wandering around Fifth Avenue apartments.

Abbey Sullivan

University’s Fifth Avenue apartments have reported in recent weeks alleged sightings of an unidentified person lurking by windows and trying to peer inside. Some perceive the University’s response as lukewarm. This is an opportunity for the relationship between students and campus public safety to be strengthened.

Dean of Students Heather Black was among the first to notify the student body via email of the “suspicious male” allegedly hanging around the Fifth Avenue apartments in January. The email included a description of the suspect, examples of suspicious activity and a call to action to report all such instances students may witness on and around campus.

The Chatham Apartments, where sightings of alleged suspicious activity have been reported this semester. Photo by Marco Nakich.

Following this was an 18-day silence until campus police sent out a neighborhood crime watch alert on Feb. 12 to the student body that detailed an attempted abduction of a girl on the corner of Fifth and Penn avenues. Six days later, Black emailed students again regarding the reports.

Black wrote, that in response, Public Safety had done the following:

  1. Sent a “Suspicious Activity” campus email dated Jan. 24.
  2. Increased rounds on lower campus.
  3. Responded to all reports, including walking and inspecting behind the buildings.
  4. Continue to monitor local reports, which resulted in a second all-campus email on Feb. 12 about a neighborhood crime alert.

Some students feel a lacking sense of urgency among public safety and as though the University isn’t responding to these threats and reports of them quickly enough. The apartments on Fifth Avenue are a must for Chatham housing; the influx of first-year students this academic year demanded as much. It’s not fair if these students don’t feel as safe as those who live on other parts of campus.

It is policy that, should students call 911 and request emergency services, city police redirect calls to campus police because Chatham’s campus is outside their jurisdiction. The legalities would prove inconsequential, of course, if incidents of campus police taking far too long to respond to students’ reports didn’t come flooding in.

Black and Chief of Police Valerie Townsend held office hours from 11 a.m. to noon Feb. 21. These office hours are said to continue in the spring semester. This gave students a well-deserved opportunity to communicate with public safety about these incidents and other pressing issues.

Furthermore, public safety conducted a meet-and-greet event with students on Feb. 26 in order to continue fostering a friendly relationship and be more transparent with the student body. These are both great arrangements; students should leap at such opportunities to speak with those in charge of our safety, and those in charge should continue hosting such events.

In the wake of a campus safety issue, divisiveness between public safety and students is damaging and dangerous. Let’s continue to work together to rectify any disconnect and solve the campus security threat.