Drexel Police to freshmen: ‘It’s not the suburbs’ | The Triangle

Drexel Police to freshmen: ‘It’s not the suburbs’

Busy streets divide campus and endanger students who are not aware of their surroundings. The law says pedestrians must yield to vehicles in Pennsylvania. (Photograph by Casey Wood for The Triangle.)

As nearly 3,500 freshmen move into Drexel University, one of the most important steps to being successful at college is learning about your new surroundings, according to the Drexel police department.

The first week at college is an exciting time for new freshmen. For many who are living on their own for the first time, the freedom to explore Drexel and its collar communities is thrilling. But whether you are on or off campus, Drexel Police shared tips that are essential to having a safe and successful beginning at school.

“First of all, we would like them to save our number in their phone,” Chief of Drexel Police and Vice President of Public Safety Eileen Behr said. “We are a police department, but we are also a service department. We are here to serve and to help. Even if you get lost or you’re not sure, we’re here.”

Drexel Police emphasized their unwavering reachability for all students and staff. There are numerous ways to get in touch with Drexel’s own police department, whether it be for assistance in an emergency or simply for information.

In addition to calling Drexel Police, students can communicate with officers through the Rave Guardian App. The app, which is available free for both Apple and Android, allows students to message the department, set safety timers and add family guardians.

Drexel Police also recently opened a “mini-station” in the east entrance of Gerri C. Lebow Hall. The station features informational resources for students, as well as a telephone that immediately connects to the police dispatch. Officers are also available at the station at most times throughout the day.

One of the biggest issues Drexel Police tries to tackle around campus is pedestrian safety. Problems arise especially once classes begin, Behr said.

“As freshmen, you’re preoccupied,” she said. “You’re looking at schedules, trying to find buildings. You’re unfamiliar with campus.”

“It’s very important for Drexel students to be good pedestrians,” Officer Kim McClay said.

In Pennsylvania, vehicles have the right of way — pedestrians do not. If a car is close enough to cause a hazard, the pedestrian has to yield. Do not cross streets illegally.

The department highly suggests that students do not hold their cell phone in hand or wear headphones while walking around campus. Listening to music makes it difficult to hear car horns and other pedestrians. And while cell phones are a distraction, theft is also the number one crime committed on campus, and handheld devices are easy targets.

“We suggest that [students] do not walk alone with [their] phone in their hands, because that’s the number one thing taken — day or night,” Behr said. “[People] will take the phone right out of your hands. Put it in your pocket.”

Drexel Police also offer a property registration program, where students can register valuables — like cell phones, laptops, bicycles, skateboards, musical instruments — with the department. It’s a free service for students.

“I can run a list of times that we’ve been able to reunite [people] with their property [through the property registration program],” McClay said.

Another resource to connect with Drexel Police is the Blue Light system around campus. Students can utilize this system in an emergency to request a walking escort or simply for information. Walking escorts with uniformed officers are available at any time. Drexel also has an agreement with University of Pennsylvania Police where the two departments will work together to escort any student across both campuses.

“You never have to go anywhere in University City by yourself,” Officer Tom Cirrone said. “24 hours a day.”

Students utilizing safe practices is just as important in residence halls and academic buildings as it is on the streets throughout campus.

For the past two years, Drexel has had a university-wide policy prohibiting smoking on campus, especially in residence buildings, Behr said. Smoking is a serious fire hazard and has never been permitted in residence buildings.

Drexel students also have the statewide medical amnesty law protecting them. The amnesty policy protects students from criminal prosecution for underage drinking if they contact police to report a medical emergency. Behr calls it a “forgiveness policy.”

“We would rather [students] call us [in an emergency], and we can go and check them, and make sure they are okay, rather than an ambulance or having somebody end up in the hospital,” Behr said. “Our motto is that we want everyone to wake up in the morning.”

Cirrone referred to the “Don’t Stall, Just Call” campaign, which was started locally to raise awareness about how to identify and react to cases of alcohol poisoning. He noted that one component of the campaign teaches students to “be your brother or sister’s keeper.”

In all, being aware of your new surroundings is key to a safe, successful and fun beginning at college.

Drexel Police emphasize the importance of being good pedestrians and citizens, being aware of what is happening around you, knowing about each resource available to you and taking initiative when it matters, like in emergency situations.

“We know [freshmen] will take a lot of information in [in the first few days],” Cirrone said. “We say: always prioritize your safety and be aware of your surroundings.”

McClay said that Drexel is an urban campus with urban problems.

“We know [Drexel] is not the suburbs,” Public Safety Communications Accreditation Manager Colin Quinn said. “It’s an urban area and [students] have to treat it like that.”

Students can reach the Drexel University police department 24 hours, seven days a week at (215) 895-2222.