Surge of the Badge Bearers

Photo by Erin Furman

Photo by Erin Furman

By Rich Forestano

Badge-wearing men and women in brown hats and slacks have been more visible this year, according to students.

They are in the parking lots, outside James Shuart Stadium during football games and hanging around Dutch Treats and Kate and Willy’s at odd hours of the night.

Hofstra’s Department of Public Safety beefed up safety procedures in the lead-up to the debate in hopes that students would feel comfortable walking alone no matter what time of day or night.

“Our main function is to make a safe environment for students pursuing their studies,” Public Safety Director Ed Bracht says.

Hofstra’s public safety department employs more than 35 full-time and 18 part-time officers who work 24-hour rotating shifts. The officers perform various types of patrols, including motorized and foot patrols, and patrol within each floor of the residence halls. Students have taken notice.

Junior political science major Brandon Macarz says, “I feel a lot safer when walking in the parking lot coming back from class.”

Everyone from seniors to the student center workers say they have seen an increase in campus security and the presence of public safety officers.

“They’re everywhere now which is a good thing,” senior accounting major Michael Bambridge says. “I have class till 9:30 at night three days out of the week and it’s nice to know that there’s an officer around to make you feel safe.”

However some first-year students are worried about reports of crimes in Hempstead.

For instance, first-year student James Sanders says he is constantly looking over his shoulder when he comes out of class late at night.

“I’ve heard bad things about Hempstead,” Sanders says. “It’s scary around here at night and I’m just curious if measures are being pursued to protect outside the area of the campus.”

A lot of the “myths” about Hempstead are hearsay, and need to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, the neighborhood isn’t exactly one that Mr. Rogers would call home, but it could be worse. Bracht has taken measures to ensure safety in the regions outside of our campus.

“I am working with the Nassau County and Hempstead police in order to get more security on the outside of our campus,” says Bracht. “We also have more Public Safety officers patrolling up and down Hempstead Turnpike.”

Sanders says he obviously needs to give it time, but from what he has seen, it’s a cause for concern.

“I know I’ve only been here a couple of weeks,” says Sanders. “But it’s not so friendly at night when I walk to the deli on the corner of Fairview and Hempstead Turnpike.”

Some students disagree. “I don’t think it’s that bad around here,” senior Michael Cook says. “It helps to know that people like Public Safety are keeping us as students safe. I’m not that worried when I’m around here late at night.”

One reason for Cook’s feeling of security may be that Public Safety has expanded gate shifts to start a half-hour earlier, beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; all gate shifts end at 6 a.m. There’s always a Public Safety officer on duty seven days a week at the entrances of Hempstead Turnpike and the Oak Street entrance just across the street from the Netherlands Complex.

“That’s one of the differences that I’ve noticed so far,” said senior Sarah Schoenholtz. “I remember coming back late at night last year and having to swipe to drive in. Now that it’s earlier, it’s probably better this way.”

Despite efforts to prevent on-campus crime, incidents happen. According to the most recent Campus Safety Report, there were 48 burglaries in 2006 (The 07’ report won’t be out until next year) with 44 of them occurring in residential facilities, a number that has alarmed some students.

“I constantly keep that second lock on my suite door latched,” said Suffolk Hall resident Sal Jameson. “It annoys my suitemates since it’s a second lock to unlock, but I want to feel that my possessions and I are safe. And why are we the only dorm that has a turnstile like that? It feels like doing hard time in a prison.”

Nassau/Suffolk Hall is not the only residence hall that has a turnstile; the Netherlands Complex, Colonial Square Far East and the Graduate Residence Hall all have them. Also in every residence hall students have to swipe their ID cards twice to get into the building. The two-swipe policy is also implemented at the Hammer Lab across from the Axinn Library. And there is always a Resident Safety Representative (RSR) on duty to make sure that happens, most of the time. But there are still some security problems.

“I was walking into one of the towers the other day and no one was there,” Jameson says. “One of the people that lived there let me in. I was only going to visit my friend but what if I was an ax murderer or something?”

According to Resident Safety Supervisor Danielle Bartucca, if an RSR is not present in their assigned booth during their shift, and their supervisor finds out, he or she will be suspended and faces termination if they don’t report to speak with the assistant coordinators.

“They can’t work until they report and explain why they weren’t present at the dorm booth,” the elementary education major said. “It’s unacceptable if they’re not at their post.”

Another alarming issue on campus for students is liquor violations. The 2006 Campus Safety Report says that 377 liquor law violations were logged, with 368 being accounted for in dorm rooms.

“I don’t drink, but this liquor problem needs to be addressed,” says first-year student Donald Whitmore. “I hear too many horror stories about kids getting alcohol poisoning or worse.”

Liquor violations also occur at sporting events and are not always noticed by public safety. This has gained a lot of criticism from students and alumni.

“We had a keg and everything and we saw public safety drive by and not do a thing,” a senior at Homecoming said who asked to remain anonymous. “Yes we were all 21, but what if we weren’t? I know I know it’s not cool to be a rat but if they’re supposed to be an enforcement of safety, then they’re not doing a very good job.”

Yes, this is a college campus and students do drink, but that is not what alumni want to see when they visit.

“It’s really disturbing to see people getting wasted around my children who are still in grammar school,” says an alumnus. “Something needs to be done about this.”

While these may seem like alarming issues, they are not considered as serious by Bracht. Incidents such as murder, rape and armed robbery, etc. are considered much more serious.

“In the 24 years that I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve ever had a serious incident on the south side of campus,” says Bracht. “Yes, we’ve had car windows smashed in and cars stolen, which are serious in their own right, but we haven’t had that ‘bad’ one,” he says as he knocks on wood. “However, I don’t want people to think that I am minimizing any incident that has occurred because we don’t disregard anything that happens here.”

Maybe security issues don’t just rest with public safety, but with the personal responsibility of students as well.

“A lot of the incidents that occur are, and it’s sad to say, are most of the time by our own students,” says Bracht. “Sometimes it happens at night, sometimes during the day.”

Photo by Andrzej Sienko

Photo by Andrzej Sienko

Top Five Offenses on Hofstra’s Campus according to Ed Bracht:

1.Vandalism

“Some of the vandalism that occurs on campus happens in dorms and outside as well,” says Bracht. “Cars have been stolen on campus but not in a long time.”

What to do: Keep your car in well lit places near academic buildings or close to the student center if you have late classes. If you cannot get a decent parking space late at night on residence side, try to park near a place where you know public safety officers always seem to be around. Those places include C.V. Starr, Breslin Hall, New Academic Building and Dempster Hall, all of which have parking lots behind or next to it. Or if you want, park in the lot right behind Public Safety. There aren’t a lot of spots there but it’s probably one of the safest lots on campus.

2.Underage Drinking

“This happens when things are reported from RA’s (residence assistants) or if we get a call in about a noise issue which sometimes leads to discovering this,” says Bracht.

What to do: Even if you’re not drinking in a room, you still get in trouble. So it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t do it.

3.Possession of Marijuana or Paraphernalia

“This usually gets reported when the smell reeks out a certain area and usually leads to our action,” says Bracht.

What to do: Don’t do it. Drugs only create more problems in people’s lives and can only do worse if you keep doing it.

4.Roommate Conflicts

“Sometimes fights erupt when two people don’t get along and we get a call,” says Bracht.

What to do: Talk to your roommate or to counselors if you are having problems. It’s crucial in the college experience to be on the same page as your roommate if you want to enjoy it. Things can only start to get better if the situation is addressed in an appropriate mature manner. But if you cannot find any common ground with him or her, it may be time for a room change. Speak to your building’s resident director for more information.

5.Petty Thefts in Dorms

“We have self-closing and self-locking doors on the dorm rooms to prevent theft but a lot of students leave their door propped which could lead to something being taken,” says Bracht.

What to do: NEVER PROP YOUR DOOR!!! Yes, it’s understandable if you’re going to the garbage pale in the hallway to throw something out to do it for a minute or two. But to prop it, go put your laundry in the washing machine and go get food at the student center is just asking for problems. Keep valuables somewhere you know no one would look or invest in a safe if you’re that uncomfortable with your situation.

Photo by Andrzej Sienko

Photo by Andrzej Sienko

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Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 2:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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