Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crime Prevention Tip #4

Keep it With You...

This time of year, there's a lot to do. Exams, papers, etc. It is tempting when you need a break to leave everything where you were working so it will be waiting for you when you've returned.

However, this time of year is when we take many more reports of thefts - especially backpacks, wallets, iPods, cell phones and laptops. Common locations for these thefts are the public areas of the Library, Blanchard, and the common areas of the residence halls.

So, to avoid losing valuable work or risk losing your money or personal items:
  • do not leave any property unattended for any length of time
  • if you must leave your property, have a friend watch it for you
  • store any valuables, including money, laptops, electronic devices and cell phones, in a locked area when they are not with you
  • If you own an iPod or other mp3 player, be sure to put your name in the owner information. If it is found and turned in to Public Safety we can identify it as yours and get it back to you
  • If something is stolen, report it to Public Safety as soon as possible. Also take note as to whether there are any suspicious persons in the area where your theft occurred.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crime Prevention Tip of the Week #3

Get help fast!

In order to reach Public Safety quickly in case of emergency, program our phone number into your cell phone:

(413) 538-2304

That way, you can reach us quickly regardless of where you are on campus for help.

Keep in mind that the quicker you are able to alert us to a crime or potentially dangerous situation, the more quickly we can respond. Be sure to call us as soon as possible if:
  • you are the victim of, or are aware of, a crime on campus
  • you see something suspicious (please be prepared to provide a full description and detail what about the situation caused you to notify us)
  • you notice a safety hazard on campus - exterior doors that do not shut or lock; the odor of natural gas, someone who appears to be 'checking out' cars in a parking lot, etc.
  • any other safety concern on campus

We'd rather hear from you and determine that everything is fine than not hear from you and potentially lose the chance to prevent a crime from occurring.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Emergency Notification System Tested

Did you get the call?

Yesterday at 4:00pm the College tested its new emergency notification system. A message was sent by text message, cell phone call or email for every student, faculty and staff member.

3,304 total contacts were made by the system. Because it was a test, the system requires an acknowledgment of the receipt of the message. 1,051 messages were acknowledged.

Feedback after the test was extremely helpful. There was some confusion for those who were responding to a voice mail or cell phone message and were calling back to the call center. The passcode required is "1837" for all users. Text message responses will require a different passcode. (Generally an acknowledgment is required only during tests of the system.)

If you did not get a message yesterday afternoon, please check your emergency contact information. If you are a student, log into ISIS. If you are an employee, check your information with Human Resources.

The emergency notification system will be used only in emergencies in which the safety or wellbeing of members of the community may be in jeopardy, and through three tests each year. Assuring you always have up-to-date information through ISIS or Human Resources is vital in allowing you to receive important information in the event of an emergency.

More information can be found at http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/dps/emernotif.shtml.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crime Prevention Tip of the Week #2 - Lock your Door

Several incidents occurred this year in which students were victims of crimes which may have been prevented by a simple step - locking their residence room door. Many students reported they were gone only long enough to take a shower, visit a friend down the hall, or use the restroom.

In this academic year, we have had numerous thefts from residence hall rooms, one sexual assault perpetrated by a male who is believed to have entered an unlocked room, and an unknown male walked in on a student while she was sleeping. In one case last fall, a homeless man was arrested after he entered several rooms and areas in Porter Hall attempting to find unattended cash.

Despite attempts by the college to provide locks on the outside doors of residence halls, put card access on exterior doors, and provide locks for ground floor windows, crimes still occur in residence halls. Some crimes have committed by fellow students or by visitors of fellow students; a few were committed by currently unknown persons.

Regardless of the perpetrator, a locked door can go a long way toward protecting you and your valuables. Laptop computers and iPods are easy targets for thieves as they are easy to carry and can be easily sold. These items have not only academic but personal importance to their owners, and are expensive to replace. Most certainly, no one wants to be the victim of an assault or worse.

Additionally, members of the community should be very careful not to prop open exterior doors or leave ground floor windows unlocked. If a door is found propped open, un-prop it; if a window can not be locked, contact Public Safety. If you see someone suspicious in or near a residence hall, contact Public Safety at x2304, or dial 1-911. (From a cell phone call us at (413) 538-2304.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are Public Safety's Officers "Real" Officers?

We get this question often. The short answer is yes. There are many types of police, public safety and security departments at colleges, dependent upon the range of services each college chooses to or is able to provide for their community.

Private colleges and universities in Massachusetts can elect, as Mount Holyoke College has, to have their officers sworn as Special State Police Officers under Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 22C s. 63. This law allows duly appointed officers the same power to make arrests as municipal police officers for any criminal offense committed in or upon lands or structures owned, used or occupied by such college.

Hiring and re-appointment of our officers is governed by the Massachusetts Code of Massachusetts Regulations, and hold our officers to a very high standard of training and re-training. For example, an officer can not be appointed as a sworn officer on our campus unless s/he has a Full-Time Academy OR a part-time academy PLUS a minimum of an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice.

This standard includes hiring and on-going training for our part-time officers who work an average of once a week. This affects our recruitment efforts; a new part-time academy graduate can work for a municipality but is not eligible to work for our department. However, when they have completed the additional requirements, we are able to hire more experienced and educated officers - if they have not already developed in-roads to a municipal department. (Though we personally believe this is the best community to work in, with more opportunities to learn and to work with a diverse and active student and employee population!)

Officers, once appointed, can make full custody arrests for violations of Massachusetts and Federal Law. Of course, this is a small percentage of what our officers do - officers spend much more time patrolling the campus, investigating incidents (both criminal and non-criminal), providing services such as medical transportation, lockouts, responding to medical emergencies, and many other responsibilities. But when a crime occurs and a suspect is identified, officers are there if needed to make the arrest and see the case through the judicial system.

If you would like to see how much officers do during the year, visit our web site and go to the Publications page. Check out our annual report. We expect to publish our 2007 annual report this July. You can see a daily accounting of incidents reported to the department by visiting our daily logs, or see each call officers answer by checking our dispatch logs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why Does Public Safety have that Big SUV? Why not be Green?

This is a wonderful question, and one which we are happy to answer.

Public Safety currently operates one Chevrolet Tahoe (SUV) and one Ford Crown Victoria (sedan). Gas mileage is a big consideration when replacing a vehicle.

It may surprise our readers to learn that the Tahoe, according to estimates on the Chevrolet web site, averages 19-20 miles per gallon. The Crown Victoria, according to Ford's web site, averages 18 miles per gallon. This surprised us when we started researching fuel-efficient vehicles several years ago. Of course, mileage varies with adding equipment, and we don't operate on the highway very often, but certainly even if the gas mileages estimated by the manufacturers are off by a mile or two per gallon, the two vehicles are still very comparable.

The SUVs (Tahoes) have a marked advantage over the sedan-type cruisers. Our officers carry quite a bit of equipment, including keys, paperwork, an AED, motor vehicle battery packs, full medical kits, and more. We also very often have passengers, some of whom are on crutches, and the Crown Victoria does not have the same passenger and cargo capacity.

Another important consideration is that our vehicles must be operable 24x7, seven days a week despite the weather. The Crown Victoria has to be parked if the roadways are snow-covered as they do not have the traction the SUVs have. Due to these benefits, we are actually planning on replacing the Crown Victoria we currently own with a second Tahoe as we had two years ago; the benefits are just too important to providing continuous service to our community.

The Department is researching SUV hybrid options, to join those in the college's Fleet. However, the costs are significantly higher than the costs for traditional SUVs which would put too much stress on the college's already escalating vehicle replacement budget.

Additionally, we try to further reduce fuel costs by providing a variety of other methods of patrol, including foot patrol and bicycle patrol, fueled only by human effort, and Segway patrol, fueled by an on-board electric battery. The only down side to these methods is they are weather-dependent to some degree, and depend on having enough staffing to be able to efficiently respond to emergencies.

Public Safety's current Chevy Tahoe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Crime Prevention Tip of the Week

Keep Your Bike - Lock it Up.

In 2007, 22 bicycles were stolen from outside bike racks and other areas - only two were believed to have been locked at the time of the theft. An additional 8 bicycles were stolen from inside bike rooms, again only 2 were believed to have been locked.

Of the 30 bicycles stolen in that year, 16, or just over half of the bicycles reported stolen, were found somewhere on campus other than where the owner had parked it. Officers are still on the look-out for the other bicycles.

You can save yourself from the inconvenience of having to go without your bicycle, as well as the burden of the cost of replacement, but securing your bicycle with a sturdy U-Type lock. More tips can be found online at http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/dps/crimprev/bikethef.shtml.

Be sure to register your bicycle. It is free, and it will prevent it from being removed from campus by the College in order to make room in campus bicycle storage areas.