What to Do When Campus Feels Unsafe?

Christopher Penn is a junior business administration and hospitality management major.

Since the Public Safety Crime Bulletin emails regarding the recent armed robberies around campus was issued, many students are paying extra attention to their surroundings. The two most recent burglaries occurred on Sept. 13 and 15. Both events took place within a block of campus and in a strikingly similar fashion. The assailant approached an isolated student who presumably complied with the assailant’s demands. The assailant then pointed a firearm, taking cell phones, wallets and other valuables. Thankfully, neither case resulted in physical injuries. Both altercations ended with the suspect fleeing the scene and zero police contact.

It’s rare to see the Department of Public Safety (DPS) along the outskirts of the campus unless an incident has already taken place. Some feel this lack of attention to the streets bordering the school and in between the campuses is concerning. However, there’s good reason as to why. Public Safety is restricted within the current jurisdiction city legislation holds them to. Our Public Safety officers are unfortunately not allowed to patrol and police the surrounding streets of USF. Director of Public Safety Daniel Lawson has been working with SFPD on signing a new bill that will expand DPS’s jurisdiction and rights. Based off of the last two crime incidents, these streets seem to be the areas of focus for the armed assailants and crime. More frequent patrolling of areas surrounding campus must be a focus for Public Safety going forward, and it seems that we can expect that soon.

 

As students, we are here to focus on studies, not on crime. Strategizing how to get home from campus without getting robbed shouldn’t be a concern. This is not to say we shouldn’t be aware of our surroundings, but instead that it shouldn’t be an additional distraction from our studies. Public Safety is tasked to secure our campus and students, not us as individuals.

 

To add insult to injury, our USF shuttle system had a mishap the same weekend of the two robberies. It’s an incident that fits into frequent complaints amongst students of how unreliable the shuttles are. A student, remaining anonymous for concerns to their leadership position on campus, was overlooked and ultimately left to fend for her own ride and safety on the Sept. 15. This happened just hours after the Friday armed robbery incident.

 

Shuttle dispatchers informed the student attempting to get home safely that their systems were overbooked, and students may need to wait and watch for shuttles as they are too busy to make phone calls on arrivals. The student stated that she didn’t feel like that was a safe idea. Failing to see the flaw in taking care of our students, dispatch suggested Uber as a secondary option — a startling proposition to hear in light of the reality and recent incidents on campus that needs to be addressed.

 

The office of Public Safety aims to ensure the safety of USF students. With crime spikes alongside this seemingly blatant negligence on behalf of our ASUSF shuttle dispatch team, students question our safety. Our shuttles are a courtesy of USF and ASUSF is the governing board involved in funding and allocating resources to departments in need.

 

Director Lawson, of the Department of Public Safety, was kind enough to answer questions of mine regarding campus security. When asked what Public Safety is planning to do to address the recent onset of crime, Lawson said, “This year we added two more shuttles to our fleet and extended the boundaries of travel for shuttle pick ups and drop offs.”

 

He continued, “… A progressive policing community advisory board comprised of three USF professors, three staff and three students… are responsible for implementing the broadcast system like ‘crime bulletin’ and the emergency SMS outreach for immediate possible dangers.”

 

This comes as great news, especially in light of the recent crime influx near campus. However, what about shuttles not picking up students?

 

Director Lawson assured he would be working diligently to assure student shuttle mishaps will be addressed within his department.

 

Lawson also talked of progress in new legislation to USF within the Memorandum of Understanding. This states that USF will work together with SFPD to bolster and cooperate in each other’s efforts, including the expansion of policing powers.

 

Lawson said, “We have been working on getting Public Safety jurisdiction increased to one mile surrounding campus. This would allow Campus Police to legitimately patrol, pursue and arrest within our streets.”

 

When asked when we would see this legislation come into effect, Lewis was confident that we should see the change roll out within this semester. He assured that USF has already completed their end of the deal. The legislation currently sits on the desk of the San Francisco Police Chief William Scott and the Deputy Chief Michael Connolly.

 

All we can hope for at this point is a speedy process regarding the passing of approvals. In the meantime, it’s up to us to be aware in the areas surrounding campus. Be alert and if you see something, say something. We’re all Dons and should promote warm group safety and a friendly mentality.

Featured Photo: While Public Safety has their own vehicles, they are not allowed to patrol with the same jurisdiction as SFPD. Eamon O’Leary/Foghorn

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