Keeping Penn’s newest green space safe is no walk in the park.
Still, Penn Park has not seen a single crime since its opening last September, according to the Division of Public Safety.
Consistent with the rest of campus, there are 24-hour security and patrolling officers on cars, bicycles and electric three-wheeled T3 vehicles to help keep the area safe.
“Everything you see at Penn Park is everywhere on campus,” Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said. “We have lighting and AlliedBarton security at a 24-hour security kiosk.”
Penn Park’s landscape might be a contributing factor to its absence of crime, Rush said. “It has three bridges and one walkway into it, so it creates natural barriers and it makes controls a bit more targeted.”
There are 29 cameras watching over the park. This includes stationary cameras outside the bathrooms as well as cameras that pan, tilt, zoom and feed images into the screens in PennComm — the emergency communications team — and the Penn Park security kiosk.
There are 14 emergency callbox phones in the park. As soon as they’re picked up, the cameras switch on and there isn’t a need to talk, according to Rush. There are also three new speakers for the Penn Outdoor Siren System. The bathrooms, which can only be accessed with a PennCard outside of the park’s hours from 6 a.m. to midnight have duress alarms installed, but not a single one has been set off yet.
“There are multiple layers that make sure that the park is safe and enjoyable,” Rush said.
“It’s the technology, but it’s also the people,” Division of Public Safety spokesperson Stef Karp said.
The police and security guards at Penn Park are hand-picked and “all understand the extra ingredient of a public private park,” Rush said. “It’s customer-service oriented and community-minded. It’s a gem of a job for them.”
The lack of crime can be partially attributed to its cleanliness and green space.
“When people walk into Penn Park, they’re walking into a new space, so it’s different than walking through city streets or Locust Walk. It’s so pristine, beautiful and cared for, so you don’t see people taking a wrapper and throwing it on the ground,” Rush said.
According to a 2011 study from the Perelman School of Medicine, greened vacant lots correlate to a reduction in gun violence in Philadelphia. The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, lends support to Rush’s belief that criminal activity tends to breed in empty lots.
Though College sophomore Sophia Ciocca usually feels safe around campus, she said “a space like that needs extra protection, especially at night.”
“It would be really easy for something bad to happen,” she said.
Rush said the success so far has been shared between DPS, Facilities and Real Estate Services, Business Services, Penn Athletics and Penn President Amy Gutmann.
“President Gutmann’s vision was to create a welcoming community,” Rush said. “We all worked as a team to make this environment welcoming, but it has rules. Anyone can come to enjoy but they can’t perpetuate crime here.”
Penn Park’s 24 acres of green space is one of the biggest open space projects in the city, according to Rush.
“It brings out the best in people,” she said.
A unique aspect of the park is that it’s so intertwined with the rest of the Philadelphia community.
“What’s nice is that if you go there on a weekend, there’s a good variety of people, including students and intramurals and families enjoying the picnic tables,” Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli said. “The draw of the park and the use is greater than intercollegiate athletes.”
A considerable amount of Penn Park dwellers come from Center City and West Philadelphia, according to Rush.
“Penn Park is Penn’s connector to the city,” she said.
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