UMPD commits to campus safety; student thoughts on policies

Students walk past police blue light phones on Sept. 19.
Students walk past police blue light phones on Sept. 19. Photo credit: Stefania Papadopulos

With the new school year underway, it’s important for students and staff to familiarize themselves with the resources in place for campus safety at the University of Miami.

University of Miami Police Department (UMPD) Lieutenant Octavia Bridges says is committed to protecting the safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors at UM. With a year and a half in the lieutenant position, she looks forward to building connections with students and making the campus a place where everyone feels protected.

“Safety is definitely our main priority for the university,” Bridges said. “That is the main thing that drives us.”

Bridges spoke at the ‘Cane Kickoff Live orientation event on Aug. 18, where she gave an overview of the safety programs UM has on campus. This included information about blue light poles, Safe Ride, self-defense courses and the Rave Guardian mobile app.

Many students will use these resources at some point in their time at UM. Freshmen, like communications major Rey Leise, have already utilized these resources in the first few weeks of the semester.

“One time I was walking late at night on Ponce, and I felt super unsafe,” Leise said. “I had to run around the corner and find the nearest blue light.”

While Leise did not end up pulling the blue light, which would have alerted and sent a UMPD official to the location that it was triggered in, having these safety resources allowed her to feel more comfortable on campus.

Student government president Jamie Williams-Smith also recalled a time where she felt unsafe on campus and was able to call UMPD for help.

“I felt like the whole process [of working with UMPD] was very smooth and seamless,” senior business technology major Williams-Smith said.

While both Williams-Smith and Leise have been able to utilize the campus safety resources in the past, most students do not know all the resources that UM provides.

Williams-Smith was unfamiliar with the Rave Guardian app that Bridges has been promoting at tabling events and through QR codes at residential colleges.

One of the most popular safety resources on campus is Safe Ride. Students can request a safety escort by calling 305-284-6666 to either walk or drive them to their desired location, Monday through Friday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m however it is not available on Saturdays, a night where students may need the service the most.

“I really like our Safe Ride program, but it would be super nice if they did have it on weekends,” Lesie said.

About 50% to 80% of the crimes on campus deal with unintended property theft, Bridges said. On Sept. 9, there was a report of vehicle theft that was communicated via email from UMPD.

“That’s something that can definitely be deterred if students, staff, visitors will take their property with them,” Bridges said.

Williams-Smith also expressed that she would like to push to get previous proposals for cameras in the Pavia and Merrick parking garages passed during her administration. This would ensure not only the safety of students, but also security footage in the case of property damage, she said.

“Campus safety to me means feeling safe on the place you call home,” Williams-Smith said. “I feel like you should be able to walk around campus freely and not necessarily feel like you are going to be harmed.”

UMPD will be hosting a safety fair open to all students on Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rock Plaza on campus. Surrounding Miami organizations and police departments will be present to answer questions, give away merchandise and provide refreshments.

“I really want the turnout to be awesome,” Bridges said. “We would love for the students to show up.”

The printed edition of this story featured a misprinted paragraph that said “Instead of using a blue light, which are becoming more minimal on campus, Leise decided to use Rave Guardian and still felt much more safe.” This has been corrected on the website to read “While Leise did not end up pulling the blue light, which would have alerted and sent a UMPD official to the location that it was triggered in, having these safety resources allowed her to feel more comfortable on campus.”