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PennComm Officer Ommett Levine monitors cameras at Penn to keep the campus safe.

Credit: Helen Fetaw

Ommett Levine vigilantly watches an array of live camera feeds in front of him — toggling, panning and zooming between 41st and 36th, Locust Walk and Walnut streets. At 37th and Locust, Levine catches sight of an AlliedBarton officer collapsing to the ground in a seizure. Levine immediately alerts the Medical Emergency Response Team, which sends responders to her side and gives her the help she needs.

Levine is a PennComm Dispatcher. The PennComm Operations Center, a department under the Division of Public Safety, functions as a 24/7 virtual patrol center where operators monitor the Penn patrol zone via CCTV cameras. The zone runs from 30th Street to 43rd Street and from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue. It includes full camera coverage as well as stationary cameras in areas at a high risk for theft, such as bike racks.

Levine monitors the streets from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., five days a week. He noted that the evening can get interesting as students go out. If AlliedBarton officers notify PennComm that a student seems to be intoxicated, Levine can locate and follow that student and send MERT or assistance if that student appears in need of help.

Each operator in the control room is assigned to monitor certain camera regions. Levine monitors numerous cameras and emergency alarms set up within the patrol zone, on and off campus. His days are spent surveying for burglary and fire alarms and sending out help when needed. He has helped to save the life of an AlliedBarton Security officer, stopped bike thefts and responded to countless emergency calls.

Besides the high-stakes support Levine has provided to the community, he also witnesses a lot of the everyday faux pas that students get into around campus.

“The funniest thing is watching people texting and walking and walking right into each other,” Levine said.

Levine came to Penn in 2004 with decades of experience under his belt in the Philadelphia Police force, where he worked for 23 years as an officer and dispatcher. He said he is able to empathize with the community because of a personal connection — his brother’s medical condition allows him to identify with people in need of help.

“Because of my experience, I’m looking for something that someone else wouldn’t see,” Levine said. “The job can change you.”

PennComm also dispatches the calls for Walking Escort services, where any student can call at any hour of night and have an AlliedBarton officer walk them anywhere within the patrol zone. DPS provides on average about 1,400 walking escorts per month.

To stay safe on campus, Levine recommends that students call escorts when they don’t feel safe and pay attention to their surroundings and belongings — especially high ticket items like phones and laptops.

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