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President's Q&A, November 2015
November 23, 2015
Dr. Perman held a group Q&A on Nov. 23 in the School of Medicine’s Bressler Research Building. After discussing race relations, Dr. Perman turned the topic to public safety.
Dr. Perman: As promised, I do want to focus on campus safety. Chief Williams is away because of deaths in the family and I’m very glad to have Deputy Chief Milland Reed, who is going to provide you with data and give you some thoughts on where we are at this point. I think you will find from the data that in terms of the campus proper, we are going in the right direction compared to previous years. It probably doesn’t feel that way because we send out a lot of alerts. The principal feedback I’ve gotten on alerts is you send out too many, since many of these alerts are things that happen close to campus but off campus.
We’re not required to send out all those alerts. Some, yes, are required by the Clery Act. And again you may advise me differently. But my position is that I would rather send out too many alerts. I know it doesn’t put us in the best light. But when something happens off campus, plain and simple we can’t be sure which way the perpetrator is going. And if there is the possibility that we are going to be affected, because somebody was not apprehended, then we’re going to put out the alert. I fully understand the image issue, which is a principal job of mine to protect with regard to UMB. But our folks come first. So I’m going to error in that direction.
Deputy Chief Milland Reed, MS: Good afternoon. First I want to thank Dr. Perman and the leadership for allowing the department to come forward and speak. Public safety on campus is always on everyone’s mind. I want to start off by saying, echoing Dr. Perman, this is a safe place to work. We do put out a lot of alerts and we do give you a lot of information about things going on around us, but that is to keep you that much more safe.
Now I can put up a bunch of stats, but essentially we’re having a good year with the crime that we are reporting. But we won’t know the entire picture until we get the stats from Baltimore City, which come at the end of the year. So, for instance, with the campus, we had 12 robberies all of last year. We only have four in the year to date. But, of course, we’ve had some incidents around campus, which we usually do at this time of year.
I’d like to begin by giving you an overview of how we deal with all of this. And how we’re flexible and how we plan for the year. At the end of the year Chief Williams and I and our leadership in the Department of Public Safety put together a crime reduction strategy. And that strategy involves three different things: to increase patrol coverage, to make sure there’s high visibility so you see us and we see the bad guys, too, and also that we educate internally and externally. We educate our folks, meaning the police and security officers, to help make you safe, and we also send our people out to help train the community on how to make their lives safer.
So we start normally this time of year with a planning session. And we’ll start that new crime strategy at the beginning of the year and put it in play in January. But we make sure that plan is flexible so that in case something happens, as we did in April with the uprising, we can make adjustments. We put all these things into play and we make sure it’s working, We look at best practices, we look at crime stats, we look at data, we’re driven by intelligence, we work with the Baltimore Police Department to find out what’s really going on. So we bring that information back and that helps us deploy our personnel.
In the fall we tend to make adjustments to the original plan. We have increases in crime in the fall as we have this year. So that involves additional police and security that we put on the street. And you’ll see a map (page 10) of where the folks are located now. We also enhance lighting and we also look at CCTV coverage around the campus. We also do security surveys. That’s something we’re doing now in the area where we just had a sexual assault. We’re looking at making that area safer.
Moving to the fall strategy, that’s where we are now. This is what we have out there (in terms of personnel). I can tell you crime is down, and the stats can tell you crime is down, but if you still are fearful, we listen to that and we need that feedback.
This is what we put into play every year. Now it’s a little more this year because we’ve had some more incidents so we’re responding to that. If you look at this chart (page 10), this is Monday through Friday coverage and this is our prevention strategy. The red dots are police officers or security officers and where they are posted during the times indicated. 6 in the morning til about 8:30 we’re out there watching you come into work. You’re parking in the garages, you’re parking on the street, or you’re using mass transit and we’re out there watching.
We’re also watching the guys who are trying to do harm to you as a preventive measure. But it also gives you the opportunity if you feel uncomfortable and need help that there’s somebody you can go to. You don’t have to even pick up a phone because we’re just about everywhere (at peak arrival and departure times).
Now, as I said before, we have low crime on campus, but we’re not crime-free. To limit incidents of crime on campus that’s why we do this. It’s about 15 people patrolling at any given time or the times we have indicated. We do it in the morning, when you’re coming to work, then we do it again in the evening, when you’re going home. We’re watching your movements and we’re moving with you. Our people are out there making sure you have a safe environment. We work with the VA Medical Center. They, along with the hospital, join us as together we try to push our resources out. Now they’re restricted, they can’t go too far outside the hospital grounds, so we have them covering the blue dots by the hospital center on Greene Street. They cover that area along with the folks we have.
Now since we had the incident the other day with the sexual assault, we put additional personnel in that alleyway. If we need to make additional adjustments, we will. We’re here to serve you. Again we could put up stats that say crime is down because it is. But if you don’t feel safe, those numbers really don’t matter. So we’re here today to show you what we are doing, not only to reduce the incidence of crime on campus but to make you feel safe. You should feel safe moving about the campus, going from one building to another, also traversing to the BioPark without feeling you’re going to be the victim of a crime. We don’t have a lot of victims of crime around here. We just don’t. The numbers don’t add up to that. But the fear level tends to go toward that direction, especially at the end of the year when it gets dark early.
So that’s what we are doing. Any questions on this? I know it’s a lot of information. But I wanted to give you a graph that really shows you that we’re pretty much everywhere during that period. Other things we do, particularly in the fall, is provide our escort services. We do it year-round, but we ramp up in the fall. When it gets dark we know people are a little apprehensive about moving about. We actually put another van in service last year. I’ve been here 22 years and for most of that time we had one van. But we listened to what you said and we listened to the community so we put another van in service and now we have two during the week so we can provide point-to-point service. It used to be a route. Now we take you directly to where you need to go. And we think that’s a good thing. This year alone we’ve had 8,000 riders and that’s just our van service, not even talking about the campus shuttle service. Plus we have the walking escorts. You can call and we’ll give you a walking escort to wherever you want to go within the boundary on the campus map. It’s mainly the main campus and the BioPark.
Now the van escort was extended beyond the campus boundaries and it goes into some of the neighborhoods. Again, we met a need. I personally got that call from a faculty member who lived one block outside of the van route. And we revisited that and said that makes no sense. So we extended it out to makes sure that person could get back and forth to campus using our services. The hospital uses our services. So it’s open to anyone affiliated with the campus. Any questions?
You also can find out how far out the police van goes by going to the campus website and there’s a map. One of the things we try to make sure everyone knows that the number to call if there is an emergency or a non-emergency. We have a 24-hour dispatch service at 410-706-3333 (for emergencies) and 410-706-6882 (for non-emergencies). Someone will pick up your call. While we’re discussing that, don’t ever think you are bothering us. Really, that’s what we’re here for. I don’t care how minor it may appear to be, if you don’t feel comfortable, call the police. We have enough people working at all times to respond to your need. You hear “see something, say something”? Well, we have “see something, say something, so we can do something about it.” We can’t do something about it if you don’t tell us. We have over 30,000-40,000 people on this campus. That’s over 30,000-40,000 eyes and ears so we can make this place safer than it already is.
We have very little crime on this campus. Certainly we don’t have a lot of violent crime. It’s almost nonexistent. What we had the other day (sexual assault) we hadn’t had in four or five years. I’ve been here 22 years and I can probably only count two or three times we’ve had a sexual assault on this campus. So it’s very rare. It doesn’t lessen its importance but I’m just trying to reiterate we don’t have that level of violence on this campus. Most of the crime we have are thefts and I’ll say what Chief Williams says all the time — those are preventable crimes. My detective here just solved a case in the garage where a sting was set up in an area and we left some things out and we watched an employee, it turned out to be, breaking into cars. We locked him up, but he was going into car after car after car. But the items he was taking were left out in plain sight: laptops and other property. We can help keep the campus safe by not making it such an easy target.
The other thing is we want you to be out because there is safety in numbers. Some other tips: Carry one credit card, not 20. Make sure you know where your property is, let someone know where you are going. If you’re a student and you’re living in student housing, let someone know if you’re going home for the weekend. Very simple things we can do to make ourselves safe. In closing, we have a safe campus and we’re doing everything in our power to keep it that way.
Dr. Perman: I just want to add that this is the time of year when property crime goes up. And that’s not going to be solved by our officers and our security guards out on the corner. That’s got to be solved by all of us. We just have to be a little more vigilant. Some of it’s in the garage, but a lot of it is in the buildings, in our offices, and our labs. OK, no more preaching. What’s on your mind?
Q: I brought this up at our last safety meeting. We’re UMB employees but we’re in the Paca-Pratt Building, which is a hospital building. While we think the police do a great job, we don’t see any officers patrolling that area. Most of our employees walk up from Paca-Pratt to the Baltimore Grand Garage. When you get to Baltimore Street there is a police officer there in the morning and one in the evening, but walking up there is not, which includes the alley where the incident occurred the other night. We have many other departments in our building and we also have our clinic in the Frenkil Building , which is on Eutaw Street. We have many young girls and young guys who come out of there at night, our research assistants are leaving and it’s dark. Some of our people park all the way at Saratoga. I know they can call and get the escort, but it would also be nice if someone was posted closer. I’ll be honest, a lot of us don’t feel safe.
Col. Reed: We’ll take that into consideration. We’ve been working with the hospital and hospital security has an officer along that corridor you mentioned, patrolling that area at peak periods when most people are coming and going. It really is about resources, trying to make sure we have folks out there in the main corridors but that’s something we can definitely look at and assess the volume involved. We’ve been working with the hospital so hopefully they can contribute a little more to this and spread our folks out more. We’re trying to cover a lot of ground with a lot of manpower and it takes a lot because we are talking about rotations and folks’ days off. But we will look at this and get back to you on this. Until further notice, there is an officer right now who is going to be in that alley, patrolling Cider Alley and Paca Street so you’re going to get that right away.
Q: Two questions. I’m not sure where Cider Alley is so if you could explain that. Secondly, as far as lowering your profile, do you think wearing a backpack increases your profile, makes one more of a target?
Col. Reed: I don’t think they’re after backpacks. We’re talking cell phones and other electronic devices. Folks are on these electronic devices and that’s what they’re looking for. Nobody knows what’s in a backpack. Criminals are looking for the obvious. We’re talking electronic devices, a lot of money being out. If you get to the 7-Eleven and you’re going through your wallet and purse and you’re showing a lot of bills that makes you more of a target. When you come to work, just bring what you need. Be more cautious of what you take out in public. Cider Alley is between Lombard and Redwood off Paca Street. It’s dark. Our team went back there and made some recommendations for improvement. It could be camera coverage, it could be additional lighting, or we can just seal it off period. But until then, we’re putting a policeman back there.
Q: I know you’re basically patrolling the campus 6 1/2 hours out of 24. But during the day Jay knows well that Mondays and Wednesdays — and I’m sure other schools on campus are concerned about this — we have applicants here. We not only want them to feel safe we also want them to have a favorable impression of the campus when they leave. I have walked out of my office a bunch of times in the past month or so and have not seen a single police officer on the street walking up Lombard to Paca over to Fayette and back up to HSF II. I have seen a young man urinating on the street though twice just beyond Davidge Hall. I know you say there’s not violent crime, but it’s a matter of feeling safe on campus. If I’m out on a limb by myself that’s fine but I just worry about our applicants when they are here on Mondays and Wednesdays. I guess I would ask why is there not any patrolling between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. And second, is the police force at full strength? I’ve been here 40 years. I don’t see the number of police on the street now that I did 30 years ago.
Col. Reed: When we look at the data and we look at the stats, crime is occurring when people are moving back and forth. When they’re coming to work and leaving. We can’t be static all day because that would defeat the purpose. We have other incidents happening throughout the day that we have to be able to respond to, crimes in progress, medical aid. During the day the number of people on the street decreases so the police coverage decreases. We go into a mobile mode meaning we’re covering more area and we’re looking for things that are out of order. That is our strategy. Frankly if you’re talking about impression and whether people want to come here, if we put a police officer on every corner all day long that would send a negative message in my opinion. You don’t want a police state here. We have reduced crime and we continue to reduce crime. I can put a stat up there if you look at the rest of the city this would be almost a blank slate at UMB because there is so much that happens around us. That’s no excuse for not patrolling more, but we have to take another approach, we have to go mobile because this (chart) is designed to stop crime when everyone is out. And it’s been effective for 20-some years.
Dr. Perman: The cars circulate. There is a police presence, it’s just in the cars during the day. I understand what you are saying, but I have seen this in action and it works.
Col. Reed: Our people don’t go home. They’re just more mobile during the middle of the day, covering more area.
Dr. Perman: I know some of you are disturbed by vagrancy in the area. Please go over what we can and can’t do in this area.
Col. Reed: We do address what we call quality of life issues, urinating, drunkenness, etc. Folks that are panhandling, we don’t like it but there are laws protecting people who are doing that. We have to be careful when we engage folks who are doing that activity. Urinating in public is an offense that we can do something about. But we don’t target anyone. We really prioritize what we are doing out there. We’re looking to reduce crime. We don’t want an environment where we’re just pulling people off the street. There’s a large homeless population in Baltimore City and we deal with that. Along MLK Boulevard we have folks out there panhandling all day. It’s a city problem we’re dealing with as well, but as far as crime the police officers are out there. They are not static.
Dr. Perman: Regarding the resource issue, we had to deal with significant cutbacks in the previous governor’s last budget and the current budget. In the face of that, I have cut no resources from the Department of Public Safety. Their positions have been preserved. Now, I’m sure we have vacancies. Those are being addressed constantly so we can get the right personnel. But there are no cutbacks.
Col. Reed: We have the funding and the hires we need. We’re just looking to bring the best and the brightest here and that takes time. We really screen folks and they have to fit this academic model. It can take six months but we put the time in on the front end and profit from that.
Q: I’m the administrator in the Department of Neurology. Recently we had a staff meeting and this topic came up. I know you have some good data but there is a perception among maybe 20 to 25 faculty members all over campus that there still is a crime issue. I know you have a safety committee. But it might be a good idea to come out to the departments and attend faculty and staff meetings and not only communicate this same kind of information directly but share some of the feedback from the faculty and staff.
Col. Reed: Sounds like a great idea. The Safety Awareness Committee meets every other month. I know some folks here have been a part of that for years and I urge you to get involved with that. It’s a way to bring your concerns to the police department so we can address them as a committee.
Q: I’m interested in the role of those officers at these different stations. Is it observation and awareness, is it visibility, is it directing traffic, and if there is a traffic element to their role how does that impact their ability to patrol and be seen and react at these different intersections? And I am concerned about the afternoons at the Pearl Garage coming down from the School of Pharmacy about the visibility. It’s rare that I see someone there at the 4:30 to 5 o’clock time frame. That’s a heavy corridor, people coming to actually enter two garages there.
Col. Reed: If it’s a police officer they’re doing traffic, they’re helping you cross the street. Security officers are more eyes and ears, which is not a bad thing. We get a lot of important information from our security officers. The police do multiple things, all of which are preventative. We want to stop things before they happen. We don’t just want to respond to crime, we want to stop it. We have a large police presence out there when you’re out there. It reduces crime, we’ve proven that, which is why we’ve used this model. So the police are doing all of that. We found if we just stand on the corner and see all these traffic violations, folks complain about that and rightly so. It’s not safe. So we got proactive about it and said if you’re going to be there patrolling, do the traffic, too. Security is to report and get on the radio and let us know what’s going on. They’re also there to engage with you. If you aren’t feeling safe for some reason, go up to a security officer and let them know. They’re going to take some action — calling a police officer over, taking you to a building where you feel safer, getting you an escort, etc. That’s why we have so many people out. Everyone has a vital role and it really works.
In regard to the question about Fayette and Arch, it is a busy corner and we’re making some adjustments to that. Certainly there is someone there in the morning and there are two garages there that let out in the evening, Pearl Street Garage and the VA, and we’ve had problems there for years. You have two entities: we can’t control the VA, we try to help them. They can’t come out in the street so we have traffic jams. We’ve got a lot of people trying to go through the Arch Street corridor to Saratoga.
Dr. Perman: Is there supposed to be somebody there in the evening?
Col. Reed: We have someone at Arch and Lexington and they patrol that entire corridor. It’s something we’ll revisit.
Q: I’m a little concerned for the safety of our students. At the beginning of the year I understand you do an orientation. I’m sure part of that includes some security information. I recall this summer my co-worker and I were standing at the corner of Arch Street near the Administration Building and a young lady stopped to ask one of our students for money. I think she felt compelled to help her because it was a woman, but there were two guys waiting. And when my co-worker and I looked, we stopped talking and we focused totally on the young lady and the guys looked and they kept walking. I think the students need to know that if there is a female it could also be a group as in this case and when she gave the lady some money we advised her against it and I think she was from somewhere where she wasn’t familiar with this kind of thing. The other thing is I go to some of the community meetings of the Southwest Police Department and they say they have as much crime in their vicinity as anywhere else and our department sits right in that community. So police presence is great; it helps. But a criminal is a criminal. They’re going to try to commit a crime by any means necessary. But you guys do a great job. Thank you.
Col. Reed: I really appreciate that. You’re right. The criminal element is out there so we do the best we can.
Q: I was really concerned when I got the alert about the sexual assault the other night. And I don’t mind getting the alerts, I don’t care how many we get. I’m happy to hear that’s a very rare occurrence but I do wonder whether there are any ideas about assessing the campus for other areas where this could happen because we are an urban campus and there are a lot of dark alleys. There are quite a few places I won’t walk even if there is a cop around. I also want to echo that you guys do a great job. I see the police around the Lexington Building every morning I come in and it’s always really nice to see them there.
Col. Reed: Regarding the sexual assault, there was a brief description of what happened. We don’t believe this individual was targeted. There’s not a lot we can say about it. The Baltimore City police are investigating this and there are some physical leads that are being analyzed. In the meantime it’s our duty to increase the likelihood that this doesn’t happen again. So we’re stepping up all our patrols. You mention assessments, that’s part of our fall plan, increasing assessment. We have a team of folks who are nationally certified to do these assessments, myself included, and we’ve been doing this for a number of years both inside our buildings and outside and make recommendations. We’ve taken a number of steps, for instance putting cameras throughout Plaza Garage. That came from one of these assessments. Brighter lighting and trimming back trees are other physical features being modified. But this (sexual assault) will certainly be on the radar, looking at those dark areas and we’re addressing them as quickly as we can.
Q: I live in the neighborhood so this is not only where I work this is where I live. I feel like if you walk one block off campus you run into drug dealers. How much are you working with the city, which is not seeing a decrease in police statistics, to make the general area better?
Col. Reed: The University Police has a concurrent jurisdiction agreement with the Baltimore City Police and that extends just beyond the campus boundaries but it’s mainly the campus boundaries. So the Baltimore City Police are responsible for most of what you’re talking about in your neighborhood, which is Ridgely’s Delight, Barre Circle, Poppleton community. We meet with them, we go to their intelligence meetings every week and bring that back to see what’s going on in those areas. But because of the mandate, because of the law, we can’t patrol in those areas. Now they want us to and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that, but it’s a matter of resources and a couple of other things off the campus. But we work with the Baltimore Police Department and we have requested more of a presence around our boundaries, two, three, four blocks off campus because we know that is where you are living more and more. So we’ve made those formal requests. I think it’s no secret: They are having a challenging time right now, with the homicide rate increasing, etc. They’re doing the best they can. They just started a new crime strategy. But I guess the short answer is we provide and we’ve extended that van service for you. That’s really our part of that. But we can’t patrol outside our jurisdiction because of the law.
Dr. Perman: We totally acknowledge the problem. I have a good relationship with the current mayor. I hope to have the same relationship with the next mayor. For what it’s worth, I try, I squawk as much as possible on behalf of UMB.
Q: I always use your escort, which is really good. I appreciate the hours you make it available and you have some really good officers. I also have had some incidents with some of the officers and I’ve shared my concerns with the USGA so maybe you have heard about it. The officers say “oh you are not inside the area” and also when they drop you off they will just leave instead of waiting for you to get inside. The service is really good but some of the officers aren’t.
Dr. Perman: Are you talking about courtesy?
Audience member: Some of the officers are really good, but one or two …
Col. Reed: I really appreciate your comment and one of the men up here will speak to you afterward because it’s our goal to give top-quality service and that’s not going to be tolerated. They are supposed to wait until you are secure and you are in your residence. But we want to hear that. We really do. We can only get better if we know what’s going on. There are various ways. There’s a campus comments line and more.
Q: I’m from the School of Nursing and we do really appreciate your service and you do a fine job on the southern end of the campus. Could you speak to the closed circuit cameras throughout the campus? I know there has been an upgrade in the past couple years. Are they monitored at the police station? Or are these cameras just to review what might have happened at a certain intersection? And are they effective at night?
Col. Reed: There have been cameras at this institution for 20 years or better. And with technology increasing we’re getting better systems, we work with CITS and some others to get the best equipment we can on this campus. But as far as monitoring the cameras all the time, that’s not happening. We have recorded information or data we can pull up at a moment’s notice. We can rewind the camera and go back to see what’s happening. But it is our goal through the ERM process – that’s one of the initiatives we put forth on the Safety and Security Committee was to have a real-time monitoring system and we are working toward that. Public Safety is redoing a portion of our building to put a facility in there so we can have someone housed to monitor the cameras. We’ve upgraded the system so that’s coming online next year. We want to train our folks to do that. But we do work with Baltimore City, they have over 500 cameras in the area and those are monitored. The first thing we do when we have an incident is we check our camera system and we check theirs. We’re moving toward real-time monitoring because we believe there is a lot of value in that.