With spring term coming to an end, it’s hard to believe that we’ve only received one DrexelALERT from Drexel Public Safety in these past nine weeks. That’s right, one — and it was about a faulty bomb threat that ultimately amounted to nothing. Yes, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised, too, but we know that Drexel’s commitment to public safety had to be a big chunk of the reason for the decrease in crime.
In 2011 there was a 12 percent overall decrease in crime on our campus, and according to Senior Associate Vice President for Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio, this trend has continued into the first quarter of 2012. There isn’t any sole reason for the decrease, but there are several contributing factors, one of which is our growing police department. In November 2011, just three years after its inception, the Drexel University Police department earned accreditation from the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. This achievement was huge, seeing as only 53 colleges nationwide at the time had received this prestigious recognition. We saw the hard work indicative of that honor pay off May 8 when one of our own arrested a four-time robber just as he was about to commit his fifth.
A few days before that arrest, Drexel received a bomb threat on campus. Public Safety quickly secured Hagerty Library, which was the only open building on campus at the time, and the Main Building, which was where the bomb threat was made. The threat turned out to be nothing, but it was reassuring to see how thorough and speedy Public Safety and surrounding police units were when the threat was made.
This term we also saw the launch of Drexel Guardian, a mobile service that allows members of the Drexel community to set up a profile that automatically provides Public Safety with their personal information when they call for help. With the system in place, Public Safety personnel can instantly identify callers who have set up a profile. Users can enter as much or as little information as they want to help authorities respond quickly and effectively in an emergency. Users with GPS-enabled phones can use that feature to allow Public Safety to track their location during calls. Drexel Guardian also provides a virtual escort service, through the use of the traditional walking escort service is still highly recommended.
Another reason for the success of Public Safety is President John A. Fry’s dedication to campus and neighborhood security. During his time at the University of Pennsylvania as executive vice president, Fry spearheaded the effort to create a governing board for the University City District. The mandate for the new district was to develop safer and cleaner streets, spruce up commercial corridors, and have brightly clad “ambassadors” roam the neighborhood in partnership with the universities’ own public safety patrols.
The second step in Fry’s plan for UPenn Public Safety was to add more commercial vendors to the area and make the place more pleasant to draw in people. Drexel’s Master Plan maps out the steps Drexel is taking to achieve the same success UPenn now enjoys. This includes the construction of new class buildings, residences and businesses.
So thank you, Drexel, for caring about our well-being. Public Safety in University City has come a long way since the stabbing of UPenn research assistant Vladimir Sled’ in October 1996, which was the catalyst for the renaissance of safety in West Philadelphia. As students in an urban campus environment, it’s important that we are aware of our surroundings. We aren’t invisible, and crime in West Philadelphia hasn’t been, nor will it ever be, fully eradicated, so it’s important that we remain cautious. We look forward to witnessing the continued safety improvements in University City and beyond.