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Oct. 15, 2014
Update on Enhanced Safety at UMB
Last week I wrote to you about recent crimes on campus, and the concerns all of us have about personal safety. I expressed the commitment I share with Chief Antonio Williams and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Police Force to take immediate measures to enhance the security of our community. Today I am happy to report that progress has been made.
Yesterday we gathered in a town hall meeting on public safety to unveil new initiatives, to hear your concerns, and to ask for your ideas. Chief Williams announced several new safety initiatives on campus, and officials from the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) joined him to describe stepped-up security measures in the communities surrounding the campus. Although the meeting was very well-attended, I know that work, classes, and other commitments made it impossible for many to be there. So, I want to share with you what you may have missed.
Here are some of the specific measures Chief Williams has already taken:
- Additional UMB police and security officers will patrol campus streets between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Street corner security assignments are extended from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Officers are wearing reflective vests for greater visibility.
- Police cars are keeping their amber flashers on to highlight their presence.
Expansion of the walking and van escort programs
- Van escorts will now drop off in an expanded area, about three blocks away from campus in all directions.
- More public safety staff are assigned as walking escorts, available 24 hours a day.
- Van escort hours are extended, now 3 p.m. through 1 a.m., with two vans operating during peak hours, between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m.
- Personnel will be dedicated to coordinating van escorts, ensuring better customer service.
- Van and walking escorts are also available to UMMC employees.
Changes to the crime alert process
- The Office of Communications and Public Affairs will distribute notifications to help ensure that they are timely and clear.
Lt. Col. Melissa Hyatt, from the Baltimore Police Department, expressed the department's deep concern about our safety issues, and reiterated the longstanding cooperative relationship our police and the BPD have shared. She also outlined the steps BPD is taking, such as stepped-up patrols on the perimeter of the UMB campus, especially the spots most frequently used by foot traffic coming and going through campus.
The 200-plus audience members at yesterday's town hall had a chance to express concerns, ask questions, and suggest ideas. One first-year law student urged more town hall meetings, especially in the evening, to accommodate more of our community. I gave my commitment to do that, and will set a date and time for an evening town hall shortly.
The chief and I will look at some of the other suggestions more closely, such as extending even more the street corner security hours, finding ways to lift the stigma some may attach to using the police escort service, and publicizing our enhanced security measures beyond the campus.
Both Chief Williams and Lt. Col. Hyatt stressed, however, that the police cannot do it without the help of the community. They urged us to remain vigilant, let police know about anything suspicious, and stay off cell phones when walking around.
That last point is something I want to stress to you very strongly. Police know, and crime statistics prove, that people are more vulnerable to robbery and attack when they are distracted. Of course, the phones themselves are popular targets for thieves. But it is the loss of awareness of one's surroundings that presents an even greater danger. I cannot make people put away their phones, but I can certainly urge them to do so. Expect to see more efforts to curb walking and talking or texting in the coming weeks and months.
Finally, I want to assure you that these enhanced safety efforts, and this dialogue, will continue. If you missed the campuswide town hall meeting, you can watch a video recording of it posted on umaryland.edu. Most importantly, we want to hear from anyone and everyone who has a comment, a concern, or a suggestion. Please send your email to SafetyQuestions@umaryland.edu and you will receive a response quickly.
Among all the things we do here, there is absolutely nothing more important to me and to the leadership of the University than the safety of our students, our staff, our faculty, our partners, our friends, and our neighbors. I thank you for your continued support as we work to improve the safety of our community.
Jay A. Perman, MD