If the University has found that the campus enjoys "safety in numbers" -- with $18 million a year worth of police and security guards, for example -- a recent Daily Pennsylvanian poll suggests the money is well-spent. A majority of University students -- 69 percent, a 6 percent increase since last year -- said they feel "somewhat safe" or "very safe" on campus, according to the survey. Conducted over a three-week period ending Sunday, the DP poll surveyed 153 random undergraduates. It has a margin of error of about 8 percent. In addition, 57 percent of respondents said the University should not host the Philadelphia Public League high school basketball championships at the Palestra next year. This year's event, on March 1, was followed by a shooting that killed one man and injured three others, including a University student. Police have maintained that the shooting was unrelated to the game itself, though the event brought two of the suspects and the homicide victim, their alleged target, to campus. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said Penn should host the event again, while 7 percent weren't sure. Seventy-seven students, or half of those surveyed, said they felt safer in Center City than University City. A little more than half that number, 40 students, said they felt safer in University City, where crimes against persons are higher. According to Lt. William Schmid, who spearheads the Center City District -- an extensive Special Services District established to fight downtown crime in 1991 -- the entire area has seen a 23 percent decrease in serious crime over the last seven years. Penn Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush said she felt confident that University City, too, could see the same type of results Center City has -- especially since the University City District, a similar special services district focusing on quality-of-life issues -- was born last fall. "We're in infancy, and yet we've had amazing results already," Rush said, adding that robberies in University Police jurisdiction, which spans from the Schuylkill River to 43rd Street between Market Street and Baltimore Avenue, have fallen 29 percent from last year as of April 1. King and Rush emphasized that the significantly increased safety measures were "textbook"-like responses to many of the Division of Public Safety initiatives Managing Director Tom Seamon made in his 1996 master plan and later in response to the crime wave in the fall of 1996 that saw the shooting of a Penn student and the murder of University biochemist Vladimir Sled a few blocks from campus. Since then, many initiatives have been instituted to target certain types of crime and increase security, the most significant of which was the hiring of 18 University Police offices last spring, which expanded the force to about 100 officers. Six more officers were hired this spring, and the hiring process continues in what Rush said is an effort to "plan for the future." Since the crime wave, the Division of Public Safety has also expanded the Spectaguard security force, added new lighting throughout campus and moved from a shabby Victorian house in Superblock to a $3.5 million facility at 4040 Chestnut Street. In a trend continuing since last year's poll, 79 percent of students said the University should focus its safety efforts off-campus. But while 59 percent of respondents students said that they would not venture west past 41st Street alone at midnight, the number was down from last year's poll, which reported that 70 percent of students were uncomfortable walking west of 41st Street alone after dark. This year, 23 percent listed the area between 42nd and 44th streets as their midnight limit, while 18 percent said they would comfortably walk even farther. Other results from the poll: · What do students think of the University City District's safety ambassadors, the 27 yellow-jacketed people who perform tasks ranging from giving directions to reporting a crime to police? Twenty-nine percent of respondents rated their "presence and visibility" as "very good" or "excellent." Another 37 percent said they were "good," while 33 percent graded them as "poor" or "fair." · How close to home has crime hit for Penn students? According to the poll, 18 percent of undergraduates have had something stolen while they left it unattended. Seven percent of respondents said their Penn residence had been burglarized. · Of the 121 surveyed students returning to Penn next year, 61 said safety or security was a factor in their decision to live on campus or off campus.Comments powered by Disqus
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