Bishop Ireton High School '96 Alexandria, Va. As recently as last fall, University police officers, detectives, administrators and technicians arrived for work, took roll call and even inspected fingerprints inside a dilapidated Victorian townhouse on Locust Walk and an annex behind it. But although it was cramped and uncomfortable, the worst part of the 19th century station, officials said, was the distance between it and other public safety facilities. University Police operated out of the house and its annex; Spectaguard security guards worked out of a graduate tower at 37th and Chestnut streets and Weightmann Hall at 33rd and Walnut streets; and victim support and special services were located in a mini-station on South 40th Street. The new headquarters, which consolidates the services of the University's ever-expanding Division of Public Safety under one roof, has been in the works for more than two years. The project was a top priority of Managing Director of Public Safety Tom Seamon, a former Philadelphia Police deputy commissioner who came to Penn in 1995. By October 1996, the University had closed a deal on the warehouse, purchasing it for $1 million. The headquarters are equipped with a high-tech "Penncom" center, a room with multiple dispatchers and surveillance cameras that can view areas all around campus, as well as holding cells and a gym for employees. The headquarters cost $2.5 million and took about 14 months to renovate. Beyond the headquarters' obvious technological and convenience advantages, the location of the new building, west of 40th Street in a diverse neighborhood, makes the Penn Police an asset to the community, administrators believe. Because the location and size of the building give the headquarters increased visibility, it will act as a deterrent to criminal activity in the neighborhood, as well as be a visible service for community members to take advantage of, according to Director of Police Operations Maureen Rush. Indeed, University President Judith Rodin addressed the community directly at the building's gala opening January 27, an event which was replete with community leaders. "This building bespeaks our continued commitment to the community and its safety," she said. Community leaders agreed that the headquarters was an extremely positive addition to the neighborhood. Joe Ruane, who heads the Spruce Hill Community Association, said he felt the station would make the 40th street corridor a more appealing, viable location for retail -- something that could, in turn, spawn foot traffic. "The areas where there's been the greatest amounts of street crime have been on the fringes of campus," said History Department Chairperson Lynn Lees, an officer in Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues. Also soon to be serving the community on the 40th Street business corridor will be a new headquarters for the University City District, a special services district providing security and sidewalk cleanup to the area from the Schuylkill River and 50th Street between about Spring Garden Street and Woodland Avenue. The UCD, created last summer and funded by a number of area institutions and corporations, including Penn, Drexel University, the Philadelphia University of the Sciences --Eformerly the College of Pharmacy and Science -- and Amtrak, will soon be moving to a spot on the 3900 block of Chestnut Street, just down the block from Public Safety headquarters. The building will house a Philadelphia Police substation.Comments powered by Disqus
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