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Students have mixed feelings on campus safety

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In the past three years there were only nine sex offenses, nine robberies and zero deaths as a result of manslaughter on the Coral Gables campus.

But with the heightened need for security after the Virginia Tech massacre in April, the University of Miami community has mixed thoughts on the adequacy of on-campus security efforts.

Currently, the UM Police Department offers more than 30 programs designed to increase student awareness and provide security services. One such service, the 24-hour escort program, can be used by students dialing security from one of the blue-light phones located on campus.

“I believe it is a very good service, and I think everybody should take advantage of it,” said Paola Solano, a senior who used the service when she felt unsafe walking to her car.

Other students believe the phones may not be accessible from everywhere on campus.

“I walk to Mahoney pretty much every day from the Wellness Center, which is where I work, and I only pass about three blue-light phones,” Aprile Legot, a junior, said. “I can see the ones on the opposite side of the lake, but if anything happened I wouldn’t jump in the lake.”

Blue-light phones may provide security for students walking around campus, but security is needed for the more than 4,000 students living in the residential halls as well.

Security assistants, who are also full-time students, monitor and document students and visitors who enter the residential colleges. Security assistants notify a supervisor if something is wrong.

Still, security assistants do not begin work until 10 p.m., which allows access for anyone before then.

“If you’re patient enough, you can basically get into any residence building on campus,” said Brian Gerstle, a junior who lived in Eaton last year. “Just wait for someone to open the door and let you in.”

Gerstle said his suitemates in Eaton had a third person living with them for the majority of the year.

Also, security assistants work all-night shifts and are full-time students. Some students often get tired while on the job, which may impact security.

“I’ve closed my eyes, but I never fall asleep,” said Mahwish Saleem, a senior who is working her second year as a security assistant. Security assistants undergo an application process, but there is no physical requirement for the job.

Alan Fish, vice president of Business Services, does not see a problem with the all-night security shifts.

“It’s like a second job, and we have a lot of students who have second jobs,” Fish said. “Students work all day and then work late hours as waiters or something similar.”

In addition to escort services and security assistants, there are more than 300 cameras installed around campus.

UMPD Chief of Police David Rivero said the cameras are only monitored in the case of an incident. He also said the cameras need to be updated.

“We’re in the process of revamping and replacing a lot of them because a lot of them are old,” Rivero said. “We’re going on to the high-definition, high-quality, high-resolution cameras that will be able to provide us with a wider range [of vision].”

The renovation will be done in phases, and cameras will be placed in areas such as the Wellness Center and its adjacent parking lot first.

Although the university has made several efforts to provide security on campus, Rivero believes students should do more to ensure a safer environment.

“A lot of students are completely oblivious,” Rivero said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings. It’s [everyone’s] responsibility to prevent crime on campus.”

Felipe A. Yanez may be contacted at f.yanez@umiami.edu and Natalia Vanegas may be contacted at n.vanegas@umiami.edu.

Examples of UMPD’s programs and services

 Student lunch with Police Chief David Rivero: Rivero treats students to a one-on-one lunch. Students must come with safety suggestions.

 VIN Etch: UMPD can mark vehicles with its own set of fingerprints, making the vehicle easily traceable if stolen and less desirable to a thief.

 Anti-Theft Devices: Locks for vehicles, bicycles and laptop computers are available through UMPD at a reduced cost.

 Lighting Tours: The UMPD participates in lighting tours conducted by the Dean of Students Office to evaluate existing lighting and recommend improvements.

 Rape Aggression Defense (RAD): The Rape Aggression Defense System is an internationally-recognized program of realistic self-defense tactics and techniques for women.

 Self-Defense Awareness & Familiarization Exchange (SAFE): SAFE is a one- to two-hour program that provides teenage and adult women with personal safety information and an introduction to the physical aspects of self-defense.

 View Coral Gables campus blue light map at miami.edu/maps and Miller School campus blue light map at ummcsd.med.miami.edu/SECURITY/bluelightmap.htm.

Compiled by Felipe A. Yanez.

October 15, 2007

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.