Recently, the crime rates on campus have been on a steady decline as a result of the increased efforts of the Department of Public Safety, under the direction of Henry Christensen. In an interview with the Miami Hurricane, Christensen talked about recent security improvements and shared some insight into enforcing public safety at UM.
Q: To what measures do you attribute the substantial decline in crimes on campus?
A: The decline of crime on campus can be attributed to several things.
Firstly, we have deployed police and security officers at significant areas, reducing the opportunity for someone to commit a crime and go undetected. Also, we have put together an auto theft project that has targeted auto theft by studying our data regarding locations, times, etc. and have assigned officers to specific target areas. This has also helped us in terms of preventing auto burglary.
Q: In your opinion, what would you say is the greatest threat in terms of crime to students currently at UM?
A: On a day-to-day basis, the most frequent call we get is theft of unattended property. We, including myself, are all guilty of not locking our doors and leaving our property unattended. We should all constantly be aware of our surroundings.
Q: Has a student ever tried to bribe you into overlooking their offense? If so, how did you handle the situation?
A: I have never been bribed, but if I was and if the elements were there, an additional charge could be added to the offense.
Q: What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever happened to you on a shift?
A: There have been many, but I remember once I was dispatched to an ER because a student was creating a disturbance there. When I arrived the student was complaining loudly of a stomachache. Then the doctor came to me and said, “He is making too much noise – what are you going to do about it?” At that point, I reminded the doctor that I was a policeman, and since we were in a hospital he should be the one to cure the patient.
Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of or witnessed a student doing?
A: Back in the days of “streakers,” there was a student that would don a towel, put it around his neck and use it as a cape. He would get on a bicycle and taunt the police officers by riding by them and calling names. He would do this every night and turn around to watch the police officers’ response. Then, one night, as he was turning around, he was not looking in front of him, and he ran his bike directly into a large tree. Luckily, he was not hurt seriously – except for his pride.
Q: What do you think is the most exciting and interesting aspect of working in Public Safety at UM?
A: The most exciting part of working at UM Public Safety for me is the opportunity of being able to fulfill two vocations. In a way I feel I am both a law enforcement officer and an educator. I am very proud of that.
Q: Are there certain threats to students that are overlooked or underrepresented to protect the image of UM?
A: We report all incidents and post crime alerts whenever necessary.
Q: At what point do you get the local police involved?
A: Coral Gables Police investigates all sexual batteries on campus. They have a unit that specializes in this. They are competent and compassionate to all victims. All homicides that occur in the City of Coral Gables are handled by the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Q: What recurring situations are you currently still trying to remedy?
A: At this time, we are working on improving bicycle theft on campus.
Q: In terms of security improvements, what changes do you foresee for the upcoming year?
A: Better lighting is constantly being addressed and hedge trimming will be enhanced, making areas more visible. We at Public Safety are always striving to make our campus a better place to live, work and study. We appreciate all suggestions.
Q: Is there any kind of organization in which students can get involved to take a more proactive role in the safety and security of their campus?
A: Resident students should approach the Adopt-a-Cops that are assigned to each Residential College for information or concerns they might have. The Adopt-a-Cop can schedule seminars on any issue regarding safety and can also provide information on RAD [Rape Aggression Defense] classes for female students.
Whitney Friedrich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org