Penn students wandering through Hill Field have two university police forces watching for their safety.
The Drexel University Police Department — which was recognized by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office in 2008 — works with Penn’s Division of Public Safety in a number of areas and initiatives.
“Drexel provides an extra layer of police coverage in the northern boundary” of Penn’s patrol zone, DPS Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.
The Drexel Police patrol zone — which started providing 24-hour enforcement on campus in 2010 — extends from 30th to 36th Street, and from Spring Garden Street to Chestnut Street, giving several square blocks of Penn’s campus along Chestnut and Market Streets extra enforcement.
“Our relationship with Penn has always been strong,” Drexel’s Vice President of Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio said. He was the former director of Security and Technical Services at DPS until October 2007 when he left to help Drexel found their police force.
One of the initiatives Penn and Drexel have undertaken together is the future sharing of closed-circuit television cameras between the two departments. At areas around Chestnut and Market streets, where the two universities’ patrol zones overlap, there are plans to begin letting each department’s communication center see the other’s cameras.
While Drexel will be able to see images from the Penn-owned cameras in that vicinity, they will not be able to operate them, according to Rush.
The departments can currently communicate through radio on a common channel.
According to Rush, this is an ability that remains unusual among neighboring police forces. “Interoperability between radios between two police departments is still rare across the country,” she said.
In addition, the backup Communications Center that is close to opening is a partnership between DPS and Drexel Police.
DPS has also jointly gone through active shooter training with Drexel and the Philadelphia Police Department. With the patrol zones so close to one another, coordination is crucial, according to Ceccanecchio.
“God forbid there’s an active shooter. But, in the event that there is, no one can anticipate who will be the first officer on the scene,” he said. “Police officers must respond cohesively as a team.”
Rush echoed Ceccanecchio’s thoughts. “If there was some large incident, we’d be there to help, and vice versa.”
The policing of Penn’s campus is also strengthened by the presence of some PPD officers in the area, on top of the Drexel police officers, Rush said.
One aspect of the departments’ relationship involves police officers “backing each other up and going in on jobs together,” according to Rush.
DPS, Drexel Police and PPD are involved in weekly meetings together where they discuss trends and strategies related to crime in University City.
Drexel also attends the monthly University City Public Safety Group meeting which is held at DPS. Approximately 40 people attend each meeting from a variety of organizations, including PPD, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the city District Attorney’s office and police departments of groups like Amtrak, SEPTA and Philadelphia schools.
At the monthly meeting, “intelligence sharing and crime trends,” as well as emergency preparedness issues, are discussed.
Rush and Ceccanecchio both see the combination of all nearby police departments as being crucial to safety. According to Ceccanecchio, “When we apply practices jointly, it becomes the cornerstone of protecting University City.”