The lure was the challenge of joining the efforts begun by Managing Director of Public Safety Tom Seamon and Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush in responding to the 1996 crime wave. In addition, there was the formidable task of trying to minimize crime in a unique setting -- an Ivy League institution in an urban environment. The responses the managing director and the chief of police arrived at combined textbook solutions with several imaginative ideas necessary for issues indigenous to the campus and the surrounding area. Those responses included increasing the number of uniform police and detectives and, more importantly, elevating the hiring standards and improving in-service training and initiating a special response team and a bicycle patrol to increase mobility and visibility of uniform police officers in areas with the highest potential for crime. Physical and technological changes such as improved lighting, enhanced blue-light emergency phones and building access control improvements on campus, as well as the new police headquarters and a completely revamped communications center, will equip the department with cutting edge crime-fighting tools. Reaching out to the community through the special services division, a PAL center, the liaison between the college houses and the police and the University City District have helped as well. If I were to rattle these aggressive changes off in answer to a question on a police exam, it would be laughed at as an idealistic wish-list. But -- go figure -- it worked! Crime, especially violent crime, is down significantly. The word is definitely out in the criminal grapevine. (Yes, there really is a criminal grapevine!) Penn is no longer a target-rich environment. If you commit crime here, chances are you will be arrested on the spot, and, if not, the detective unit will probably identify and apprehend you later. However, all of these cutting-edge improvements are worthless if students, staff and faculty don't assume their share of personal responsibility -- ranging from not leaving items unattended and locking doors behind you to using common sense when walking about late at night. I have seen much improvement in these area, as well. But I was surprised to see how large a role alcohol plays in many student-related incidents. An overwhelming percentage of student-on-student violence this year involved alcohol abuse. Especially frightening were the number of serious hospital cases involving alcohol poisoning. We were fortunate no one died. Several times, alert and caring friends saved another student's life. In one instance in particular, a graduate fellow decided to have a student transported to the hospital after the lad nodded out several seconds after they spoke. The student was near death when admitted, and it is clear that the GF's concern saved the student's life. It is so important to watch your own intake as well as your mates'; the person who you think is just passing out may be approaching respiratory arrest. It's better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, call the police. To make a long story longer, I haven't one regret. It has been an interesting and exciting year. I had the opportunity to plan for and meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former President Jimmy Carter and Robert Redford. I have to admit that I miss working the street a little bit. Firearms trafficking investigation was exciting (sometimes a little too exciting) and, I felt, very important. I didn't know what to expect working at a college campus, but the adrenaline rush of a chase or an arrest has been replaced by additional responsibility and the enjoyment of meeting so many great people. I still get a buzz from walking around campus meeting the people at Penn -- students, faculty, staff and neighbors. It is the best part of my job. I especially enjoy attending those campus events that mark personal milestones for students, from Convocation through Commencement. The administration works tirelessly to plan and stage these events, and when done right they seem effortless. It's a lot of work, but the look of excitement in the eyes of participating students is invigorating and makes it all worthwhile. The idea of turning this area into a hub of activity is very exciting as well, with Sansom Common, new restaurants and bars, movie theaters, housing and schools. Since I have a background in education, I especially like the idea of improving the neighborhood schools to attract home-renters and owners. In addition to moving to the new Public Safety building, I look forward to working with the revamped communications center and obtaining additional crime-fighting tools such as a photo-imaging machine linking Penn with the city's criminal photo database and a system which will give us the capability to process paperwork here, and interview victims and witnesses on campus as well. It's a great time to be here experiencing a little bit of history. I am looking forward to next year already.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.