Town Hall on Campus Safety Outlines Next Steps

UC Riverside has a task force working on solutions to a recent spate of robberies

Charles Rowley, chair of the Campus Safety Task Force, describes how cell phone theft is an epidemic. Photo by Ross French

Charles Rowley, chair of the Campus Safety Task Force, describes how cell phone theft is an epidemic. Photo by Ross French

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Thursday’s town hall on campus safety outlined what UC Riverside has been doing to protect students from being targeted by criminals, including 24-hour bike patrols, police working overtime, increased communication, trimming shrubs, and boosting light.

“It’s not acceptable for our students or our staff or our faculty to fear walking home at night or walking to campus in the morning, and it is certainly not acceptable for parents to fear for their young people while they are here at UCR,” said Interim Chancellor Jane Close Conoley.

But all that police activity has had some unintended consequences, some speakers said.

Philip Caroll-Johnson, a student, asked police to be careful not to make UCR's African American students feel targeted. Photo by Ross French.

Philip Caroll-Johnson, a student, asked police to be careful not to make UCR’s African American students feel targeted. Photo by Ross French.

Aaron Jones, a graduate student, was the first of several African-American students who spoke during the town hall at the Highlander Union Building. They said they have been repeatedly stopped and asked for identification in the past few weeks.  “Let’s not forget about the large population of African-American students on campus and not to adversely affect their experience,” he said.

Philip Caroll-Johnson, a senior, said when suspect descriptions go out on campus email about black males of medium height wearing jeans and hoodies, it makes him feel like a target.  “I’m not so concerned about being robbed but I’m much more concerned about being stopped and harassed by the UCPD,” he said.

UCR Police Chief Mike Lane said that he was taking notes, and committed that he will set up a chance to talk more with UCR’s African-American students about how police can avoid making UCR students feel harassed.  “Police are balancing a lot of different things,” he said. “But at no time would it be within policy to stop someone simply because of race.”

Maggie Souder, an employee in the Bourns College of Engineering, talks about the importance of following safety protocols.

Maggie Souder, an employee in the Bourns College of Engineering, talks about the importance of following safety protocols.Photo by Ross French.

Other suggestions made at the town hall included placing more cameras near Linden and Canyon Crest; parking police cruisers in the area; installing more call boxes around campus;  an expansion of the campus safety escort service  from nights only to 24-hours per day.

Some people asked for how to be more involved in the solution. “It’s easy to point fingers, but we all should keep our eyes open, call and report what we see,” said Bob Grant, a staff member from Computing and Communications.

Maggie Souder, an employee from the Bourns College of Engineering, made a plea for students to be less casual about security. She said locked doors and security features are only useful if you don’t share passcodes, or prop doors open.

The town hall was the first of two opportunities scheduled as part of the Campus Safety Task Force mission. The second town hall is set for 12 noon on Tuesday, May 14 at the Highlander Union Building. It is open to the entire campus community.

Interim Chancellor Conoley created a Task Force on Campus Safety with membership that includes students, staff, faculty, police and city officials. She credited a student petition for sparking the idea. The task force will issue a report before the end of the academic year about ways that UC Riverside can increase the safety of the campus.

The UCR Police Department is located near Canyon Crest and Linden.

The UCR Police Department is located near Canyon Crest and Linden. Photo by Lille Bose.

“There is a crime epidemic related to cell phones,” said Charles Rowley, the interim vice chancellor who is chairing the task force, as he held up his cell phone. “This is something of value to criminals.”

Since January, there have been four robberies on campus property and nine robberies on surrounding city streets. A total of eight people have been arrested and booked into jail. “The partnership with the Riverside Police Department has been tremendous,” Lane said.

Captain Mike Perea, who leads the Riverside Police Department group that patrols a 17-square mile area around the university, said the rise in crime has happened in other places as well. “This is going on around the nation,” he said.

Police have asked students to make themselves less of a target by not displaying cell phones and mobile devices as they walk, because it is just as tempting to criminals as flashing large wads of cash.

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