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University strengthens safety measures on campus

UConn police officers and firefighters are swamped with questions about safety measures on campus when they attend campus events and open houses. And the reactions of faculty, staff and students are very positive.

"People are typically impressed that this University has made a progressive investment in a safe campus," Police Chief and Public Safety Director Robert S. Hudd says.

The Public Safety Department in Storrs is a fully operational 24-hour police and fire department, complete with its own 911 center, holding cells and two ambulances. The 911 center is the only one in the state located outside a town or city, except for the one at Bradley Airport. The department also operates 24-hour police stations at the regional campuses. The department recently has taken many measures to ensure safety on campus and they have worked. A barometer the department uses to measure safety is the number of incidents reported to police, which was down last year by 6.4 percent in 1996 from 1995 at Storrs.

Facts about the
Department of Public Safety
  • UConn has 38 police officers and 23 firefighters at Storrs.

  • In 1996, the department responded to 20,000 emergency calls, 900 medical emergencies and 1,168 fire emergencies. Police also arrested 600 people last year.

  • All new UConn police officers must undergo a six-month specialized training program here after the four-month Connecticut Police Academy in addition to formal education. The extra training helps the officers to deal with students and the large crowds inevitable on a campus with nearly 20,000 people, most of whom are young adults.

  • All firefighters are Emergency Medical Technicians, who can assist faculty, staff and students with medical emergencies.

  • The department, which has been on campus for more than 30 years, conducts outreach and safety training programs, including CPR training, extensively throughout the year.

  • In addition to other safety checks, the department conducts almost 4,000 annual fire extinguisher checks.


"If a university feels unsafe, people won't attend it," says Hudd, who came to UConn in 1981 and has been police chief for eight years. He adds that the issue of safety on campus is one of the biggest concerns of parents of prospective students. "Would I send my young daughters here when they are ready to go to college? Yes. I don't want safety to be a concern."

One of the measures UConn has taken to increase safety is increased lighting throughout campus. After Hudd and other public safety officials took a safety walk with the USG safety committee last year, the path to Celeron Apartments was lit. The officials also checked unpaved paths for safety hazards. They plan a similar walk this year.

"We attempt to see the campus from the faculty, staff and students' perspective," he says. "We find out where people walk and if they feel safe. One example last year was the path behind the apple sales building. People were stepping over a metal beam on the path during the spring, but couldn't see it when it snowed. It was a real hazard, so we took it out. This work has been done collectively by the University to ensure a safe community."

The University also is updating the 26 outdoor call boxes, marked by blinking blue lights, and installing new ones as part of a multi-year plan.

Other equipment purchases have helped the department to respond more quickly to high-rise fires. Two years ago, the department purchased a fire ladder truck that can reach 110 feet so there is no longer a wait for outside fire departments to arrive on campus with their ladder vehicles to reach high-rise buildings.

Another new safety measure was the introduction of a permanent foot patrolman in the center of campus in addition to other foot-patrol shifts and two motorcycle police officers. Foot patrols will be increased in the future as UConn moves toward creating pedestrian areas in the center of campus.

Services at the University of Connecticut
Emergency (24-hour fire, police or medical) 911
Police routine (24 hour) x4800
Fire routine (24 hour) x4925
Husky Watch/ Safe Rides x4809
Locksmith x2921
UConn information x2000
Parking Services x4930
Health Services x4700
Womens Center x4738
Emergency information x3768
Building maintenance x3113

The department has taken other steps to increasing the visibility of safety personnel and vehicles. The police cruisers are brighter because the lights on top of the vehicles now reflect at night, and the cruisers will become even more noticeable in the future with additional reflective marking. The students who provide escorts through the Husky Watch Program don red shirts and coats so they are identifiable and escort vans are uniquely marked for easy recognition.

More than 85 work-study students work for Husky Watch, which provides escort service to faculty, staff and students seven days a week from dusk until 3 a.m. These students also enforce parking regulations around the perimeter of the campus and check to make sure academic buildings and dormitories are locked and not propped open at night.

The department has another escort program called Safe Rides, which will provide a ride home to anyone within a 10-mile radius of the campus on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Demand for escort service has risen dramatically on campus from 6,000 requests in 1992 to 15,500 last year. Student employees have helped ensure that the department meets the vast demand.

"The increase for escort requests here is the direct result of a nationwide increase in concern for campus safety in the past five years," Hudd says. "We encourage people not to walk alone at night."

Hudd says he also encourages everyone on campus to remember that when an emergency occurs, the first call should be made to emergency personnel.

"Use the same procedures that you would anywhere in the world," he says. "It's important that police, fire or other emergency officials arrive as soon as possible after an incident has occurred."

Many staff, faculty and students don't know where the police department has been located since it moved in 1991, he says. It is now in the building across from Subway and the Connecticut State Employees Credit Union.

"We should be in the background," says Hudd. "But we are always available to the entire University community. We never close..

Renu Sehgal-Aldrich