Urban universities fight campus crime with police services, technology

Sheila Burt

Northwestern isn’t the only school dealing with safety issues. Security is a problem that all college campuses, especially those in urban areas, must address — although safety procedures and the number of personnel deployed differ.

The University of Chicago, located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, employs 103 full- and part-time police officers, according to Rudy Nimocks, executive director of the University Police Department. The officers, armed and uniformed, patrol the campus, the Hyde Park community and parts of the northern Woodlawn community.

In contrast, NU’s University Police employs 40 officers, with 18 patrolling the Evanston Campus at all times.

The most prevalent offenses in the University of Chicago community are property crimes, automobile break-ins and bicycle theft, Nimocks said.

“We have ups and downs (in crime rates), but generally as compared to similar neighborhoods in the city, we do very, very well,” Nimocks said.

The force usually deploys from 13 to 15 officers with added personnel later in the evening, he said. These officers are in addition to city police, who operate within the same jurisdiction.

The police also offer an escort service to people who call from one of the 160 emergency phones in the community and ask for an officer to follow them by car until they have reached their destination.

Nimocks said the police force often responds to reports within two to three minutes of a person’s call, a response rate not found in other Chicago neighborhoods.

Some schools use technology to increase security on campus.

Officials at the University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Public Safety in Philadelphia monitor closed-circuit cameras placed in several public places across campus, said university spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman.

The school’s Division of Public Safety, a nationally accredited campus police agency, employs 98 fully commissioned police officers and about 250 other contract employees, including security personnel, Holtzman said. Penn’s safety initiative has developed extensively over the past 10 years and goes beyond campus safety, Holtzman said.

The university works closely with investors and Realtors to help fund commercial constructions around the community. Penn officials believe new businesses, such as a new cinema complex and a fresh market, might help keep the area safe, Holtzman said, because they would encourage people to walk around the neighborhood.

Still initiatives haven’t solved all of Penn’s problems. Several students were robbed or assaulted in September, according to reports in the Daily Pennsylvanian student newspaper.

At Brown University in Providence, R.I., the top three crimes are bicycle theft, assault and robbery, according to Michelle Nuey, assistant manager of special services.

Brown’s Department of Public Safety employs 30 sworn personnel, including campus police officers and sergeants, along with security officers, communications control officers and building guards, Nuey wrote in an e-mail.

The most recent crime on Brown’s campus occurred about a week ago, when a student was knocked down and had her purse taken. Mark Nickel, director of Brown University News Service, said officials are considering whether Brown police officers should be allowed to carry weapons.

The university releases campus alerts and also offers a safeRIDE transportation system around campus for students in the evening hours.

Brown hired more security personnel to patrol larger areas around campus after there was an increase in robbery and assaults two years ago, Nickel said.

“I think campus security is always an issue,” he said. “It’s a responsibility that the administration takes very seriously.”