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New Emergency Phones
Boost Safety on Campus
December 6, 1999

Blue sentinels posted throughout the Storrs campus provide a measure of safety for students and peace of mind for their parents.

They are emergency telephones installed during the past two years to provide easy-to-use service for students needing to report an emergency to the University Police Department. There are now 90 of the phones in service and the police department hopes to have 200 in service within the next two years.

The new phones, which replace 20 older phones, have well-lit units operated by a push button that connects the user with the Police Department's 911 system and activates a strobe light at the top of the telephone. Funds for the phone system came from UConn 2000.

"Our goal is to have enough telephones to be able to be at one blue phone and see another," says Robert S. Hudd, the University's director of public safety and chief of police.

The emergency phones are part of a range of public safety services on campus. In addition to police officers patrolling on foot, in marked police cars, and on motorbikes, some officers patrol the campus, especially the core area, on bicycles. An escort service is available year round, from dark until 3 a.m.

The police department also is working with the Department of Residential Life to launch a system of officers patrolling on foot around the residence halls that is expected to begin next semester.

"The University has made a tremendous commitment to public safety," Hudd says. "We maintain our own police force, fire department, and emergency medical service located right on campus. We also have the only 911 center in the state that's not operated out of a town.

"We consider this to be a very safe campus, but we do ask people to use the same precautions they would use in their home town," he says.

Police Capt. Mark Fitzgibbons says he and Sgt. John Moshier worked with the University's telecommunications and facilities management departments for two years to get the new system installed.

Fitzgibbons says there's a bigger demand for the new system now that the main campus has been transformed into a pedestrian campus. With fewer cars in the heart of the campus, students, faculty and staff are looking for a greater sense of security, he says.

"We know the blue phones add to the safety of everyone in our community," Fitzgibbons says.

Earlier this semester, one of the emergency phones was instrumental in the arrest of a man who had molested several female students. A young woman he approached called the Student Union and, as the man fled, he was arrested by an officer on a bicycle.

Sgt. Moshier says he and Capt. Fitzgibbons used their campus experience to help place the phones. "We know the paths and the dark spots," he says. "A lot of places are obvious, but others aren't. We look at the locations at night, too, and review traffic patterns."

He says when they inspect sites they also make other suggestions to enhance safety, such as improved lighting and trimming of shrubbery.

In addition to the phones installed in the center of the campus, in response to a request by the Undergraduate Student Government, an emergency phone - donated by Code Blue Corp. with installation donated by Mercury Communications - was installed in W Lot. Police plan to install similar phones in other outlying parking lots.

Hudd urges the University community to use the new phones. "We are more than willing to respond but we need people to call us," he says.

"We are a community-based police force; we work for the community," says Hudd. "There is no question, no concern that is too small. If someone's in trouble, or sees something suspicious or out of place, or hears a loud noise or a scream, then call us."

Ken Ross