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Letter from DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado
Dear Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff:
Yesterday morning, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) distributed information about two off-campus incidents involving two Syracuse University students. As Chief of DPS and as the father of two Syracuse University students, my number one priority is and always will be the safety and well-being of all members of the Syracuse University community.
One crime is one too many. We have taken a series of comprehensive actions, and implemented a number of new initiatives over the past few years, to do everything we possibly can to reduce crime in the off-campus neighborhoods that border the University. The DPS is working closely with the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) regarding these incidents and has immediately increased patrols of areas around campus.
I am reaching out to you today to share important safety information, as well as to answer some of your more frequently asked questions. Those questions include:
Q: There were recently Public Safety Notices about robbery incidents and sexual assault offenses—is there a problem with crime on campus?
A: Timely warnings regarding crime on and immediately adjacent to campus are required by a federal law called “the Clery Act.” It is our practice to also issue these notices when a student is the victim of a crime that could pose a continuing threat in the neighborhoods near campus. We do this not to alarm, but to alert the campus community to any potential ongoing neighborhood crime threats. An open line of communication is critical to crime prevention.
Q: What precautions are taken to protect the campus community, particularly students who live on or around campus?
A: In the past two years we have:
- Increased night time DPS patrol and investigations supervision.
- Increased our walking escort capability.
- Added a late night safety escort shuttle until 3:30 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday nights; and created an overnight student safety shuttle service on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until regular bus services start at 6:00 a.m.
Q: Are your officers equipped to handle these incidents?
A: DPS officers are sworn, police academy-trained, armed, campus peace officers with full powers of arrest.
Coverage often includes more than 20 DPS peace officers on duty during peak student activity nights and hours.
Several area law enforcement agencies provide patrol coverage. In addition to DPS officers and Syracuse Police Department (SPD) Officers, there are also police officers from SUNY ESF, the VA Hospital and the SUNY Upstate Medical University patrolling the university hill area.
Our officers also have completely interoperable two-way radios that connect them to officers from the SPD and other area law enforcement officers. We are always connected and communicating to provide a safe, comfortable, and welcoming environment.
During the day, among patrol officers, patrol supervisors, detectives and personnel from other agencies, there are often more than 20 officers covering a two square mile area.
Q: What about security in the residence halls?
A: Every residence hall has assigned residential security aides who monitor access at night with direct radio contact to the DPS Emergency Communications Center.
The staff of Residence Life work to educate the students about how to be safe on campus and in their residence (see the list below).
Q: What about off-campus, are those areas secure?
A: In addition to our on-campus presence, the DPS Orange Watch unit has added 40 percent more patrols to the off-campus neighborhood areas on Sunday through Wednesday nights during the academic year and 60 percent more patrols on Thursdays through Saturday nights.
This results in walking, bicycle, or vehicle patrols on virtually every student rental area street every few minutes, a practice that has contributed to immediate arrests in incidents over the past few years and a reduction of about 33 percent in serious incidents in the immediate off campus areas.
DPS is also working closely with our colleagues at the SPD and have a number of joint SPD/DPS teams in Neighborhood Safety Patrols in immediate off-campus and fraternity/sorority neighborhoods on Friday and Saturday nights. These marked patrols focus on quality of life issues and student safety.
Q: What is the level of crime in the SU area?
A: Over the past two years, there has been a downward trend in serious crime in the university neighborhood areas.
We have several 24-hour on-campus mobile, bicycle, and walking patrols in the neighborhoods, minimizing the likelihood of serious incidents.
In the past year, we added four SPD officers and four DPS officers focusing on prevention of serious crime via a joint patrol called the University Area Crime-Control Team (U-ACT).
Q: Do you have any other security tools besides patrols?
A: Within the last academic year the University completed a fifth phase of a multi-year camera system installation that now includes the placement of nearly 1,000 cameras at the entrances and exits of all residence halls, at parking garages, at other strategic on-campus locations, throughout South Campus and in and around the Carrier Dome.
Additional cameras are now being installed in several walkways and pathways on and near campus.
We’ve enhanced Orange Alert, our campus crisis notification system, with the installation of outdoor sirens on both North and South campuses.
We have over 145 Blue Light emergency call boxes around campus.
All of these technologies are monitored in our new state-of-the-art Emergency Communications Center.
The campus transportation system has been enhanced with additional routes to cover more off campus housing locations. We have shuttles that stop throughout campus through both Centro and Ultimate Arrival Transportation and they are the primary means of safe transportation in the area.
DPS offers a supplement to these services when bus service stops at 3:00 a.m. through both walking and riding safety escorts available by calling 443-SAFE.
We continually work to educate our students about safety (see the list below).
Q: What can the campus community do to help?
A: We are continually looking for ways to improve our services and increase our effectiveness. If you have any suggestions or ideas to build on our efforts, we would be happy to hear from you. Please be assured that we take the safety of the campus community as seriously as our own.
We advise that the campus community take the following precautions at all times:
- Take advantage of the CENTRO and Ultimate Arrival bus services. Plan commutes to and from campus around the bus schedules when possible. Taxi services are also available.
- After dark, take advantage of the free safety escort services available through the Department of Public Safety. Both walking and shuttle services are available to students, staff, and faculty. Call 443-SAFE (7233) for more information about these services.
- Walk, bike, or jog in groups of three or more, away from bushes, cars, and other objects a suspect could hide behind.
- Be aware of your surroundings: look and listen. Headphones and cell phones can create tunnel vision and block out surrounding sound. Be alert at all times.
- Travel in well-lit and populated areas.
- Keep porch lights on at night.
- Don’t approach strangers or let them get close to you.
- If you think someone is following you, switch directions or cross the street. Go toward an open business or lighted house.
- Have your house or car keys in hand before you reach your door. It is a good practice to carry your keys in your hand while traveling to your residence.
- Know where campus blue light alarms are and how to use them.
- If someone tries to rob you, don’t resist. Give up your property, not your life.
- If you are in a safe place to do so, attempt to get a description of the suspect(s) and any associated vehicles or license plate numbers.
- Be vigilant and report suspicious activity.
Also, please let me take this opportunity to encourage you to program the DPS phone number into your cell phone contacts (315-443-2224) and to download the LiveSafe App for Syracuse University. The following link offers information on how to download and sign up: https://news.syr.edu/department-of-public-safety-contracts-with-livesafe-49914/.
I am happy to talk with you, and encourage you to submit any feedback or questions you have to DPS directly using the Department’s Feedback Form, http://publicsafety.syr.edu/forms/feedback-form.cfm.
Parents Office Interim Director Missy Mathis-Hanlon is also ready and available to assist parents of students in any way. Missy can be reached at 315-443-1200.
Again, your safety is my number one priority.
Chief Bobby Maldonado
Department of Public Safety