Council observes security in action
Douglass Governing Council members watched a surveillance system at work, felt the weight of detention cell doors and voiced their concerns Tuesday night during a tour of the Public Safety Building led by the Rutgers University Police Department.
Police Officer Richard McGilvery said the department aims to protect people and property, and educate students, faculty and staff about current safety methods.
"We want to get out there to the community," he said. "We want to talk to people, and we want to get them the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe. We're going to give them an opportunity to talk to us and air their concerns, and try to find solutions to those concerns."
Helping students become more aware is one of many functions of the department, McGilvery said.
"We don't always want to meet you when you're passed out in a dorm," he said. "We want to meet you in a positive environment."
The department provides educational programs to student groups about self-defense, drug education, identity theft prevention and active shooters, McGilvery said.
In the event of an active shooter on campus, students should close and lock the doors of the room they are located in and barricade the door with tables and other objects, he said. A study of the Virginia Tech massacre found that students in a barricaded room survived unscathed despite shots Seung-Hui Cho fired into the room and his attempts at entry.
The department, which employs 48 patrol officers and makes about 50 arrests per month, is pursuing national accreditation and will be the 11th in the state to receive the authorization, if successful, said Rhonda Harris, RUPD police chief.
The detective bureau is equipped to use cell phone GPS coordinates to locate callers in emergency situations, McGilvery said.
Emergency contact information allows the bureau to obtain GPS coordinates of an individual's cell phone through court order if the individual is missing or kidnapped, Harris said.
There are about 2,000 security cameras on campus, McGilvery said. Cameras are also planted on patrol cars and posted in the Public Safety Building to ensure police accountability.
The department monitors the area for gang activity and documents when arrested individuals have gang affiliations, Harris said.
Council Representative for Transfer and Nontraditional Students Irina Ushakov is impressed by the facility and said she felt relieved after the tour.
"The level of technology here is really state of the art," said Ushakov, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. "I feel incredibly safe."
During the tour, McGilvery and Harris also answered questions and shared statistics.
Council External Vice President Kate Barbour, a Douglass College senior, discussed pedestrian-related accidents and speeding on the Cook and Douglass campuses.
Pedestrian-related accidents have risen over the last few years, Harris said. Lack of parking, congestion, narrow roads and negligent pedestrians are among a number of factors that contribute to such accidents.
The recent construction on Route 1 has also contributed to a flow of drivers on Cook and Douglass campuses who are avoiding the construction and are not vested in the community, McGilvery said.
Harris said she has sent out plainclothes officers during the semester to patrol crosswalks and ticket drivers who do not yield when pedestrians have the right of way. Officers hand out between 450 and 500 tickets a month.