USF Director of Public Safety Dan Lawson spoke to the ASUSF Senate at their weekly meeting on Sept. 30. Lawson, there to address the state of safety at USF, gave an overall positive report and stated that thefts were the main problem being reported by students. Student senators questioned Lawson after his presentation, focusing heavily on their concerns with the Public Safety shuttle and escort services.
“We are very safe in terms of crimes against persons,” Lawson asserted. He brought up incidents such as the recent harassment of a female USF student who was walking beside St. Ignatius Church as a rare exception to the general security on campus. He also stated that although it had been a year and a half since a robbery occurred, thefts were still an issue, the difference being that robberies imply a confrontation between robber and victim, thus making it a crime against person, whereas a theft simply means that property was taken.
Lawson and the Department of Public Safety believe that theft is so prominent because students do not take enough precautions to protect their belongings. Safety measures such as locking the doors to their dorms and apartments and keeping an eye on purses and laptops when in public are simple procedures often gone undone by students.
As a reaction to this problem, they began the “If I were a thief” program. When public safety officers see a valuable item left unattended, they will leave a small card stating: “If I were a thief, this would be gone” on top of the item. This program has been well-received by students, Lawson said; however, one senator took issue with the more invasive side of the program, in which public safety officers, accompanied by Office of Residence Life staff members, attempted to open doors in residence halls to see if students had left them unlocked. If the door was in fact unlocked, they would enter the room and leave one of their “If I were a thief” cards. He noted that when they went through the Loyola Village apartment complex one night, they encountered 13 unlocked doors.
In addition to other topics, Lawson also spoke of plans for disaster preparedness, the new campus alert system, and announced the recent purchase of motorcycles for faster officer patrols.
After Lawson’s presentation, he invited the senate to address him with their concerns. A major point of interest was the escort and shuttle services offered by Public Safety for students on and around campus for late night security. As it stands, the shuttle service runs from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and the escort service runs from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. Two senators raised concern that the shuttle service was too limited. Not only does the service cease to run somewhat early, but due to the limit of having only one shuttle van, there are often long waits for students to get their rides to safety. However, Lawson pointed out the cost of purchasing and operating a second van would be out of the question in their current financial situation.
Senator Halimah Najieb-Locke said that in her personal use, she had experienced problems with the shuttle, including waiting outside late at night for a shuttle that never came and being treated disrespectfully by a public safety dispatcher.
Lawson recommended that students with specific complaints of that nature contact him soon after they occur to resolve them on a case by case basis.
President Alex Platt raised an issue with the escort service in regards to the newly instated on-campus smoking ban, asking if requesting an escort to a designated smoking area in the middle of the night would be a reasonable request.
“No,” Lawson replied. He explained that having only two to three officers on duty each night prohibits the availability of officers to escort students in everything they do. When Platt pushed Lawson on what he recommended students do if they felt unsafe going to a designated smoking area alone, Lawson said he would tell them to “wake up a friend to go with you.”
Though problems with the shuttle and escort services are existent, they present minor inconveniences in the context of a predominantly secure campus. Nevertheless, Lawson and the senate spoke informally about the prospect of instating a committee to further study the services and seek solutions for improving them.