News

Public Safety responds to student concerns

Samantha Cooper

In the previous issue, The Quindecim published an article detailing students’ opinions of Public Safety and their reactions to an incident regarding a convicted trespasser on campus. No statements from Public Safety were made due to time constraints. This article has been written in order to allow Public Safety to tell their side of the story.

Head of Public Safety David Heffer said that the police originally did not inform him about the escaped convict.

“From the information I know, we received a call from a neighbor of Campus Hills who called to advise us that there was a helicopter in the area and that he saw a female hiding in the bushes in or near his backyard which bordered our fence,” he said. After the call, Public Safety phoned the Baltimore Country Police, who told them about the escaped convict. The police did not release any specifics surrounding the case at the time.

Whether the woman who escaped from Baltimore County Police Department custody made it on campus was a concern that many Goucher students had, as expressed in the previous article. The e2Campus alerts that were sent out to students during the incident were unclear, and no further updates were sent. One of the initial reports said that the woman had been located “in the woods outside of campus.” This turned out to be untrue.

“A later conversation with a Baltimore County officer revealed that the suspect was, in fact, found on Goucher property, in the woods on the other side of the old equestrian field,” Heffer said. He also said that the reason why the Goucher commu nity wasn’t informed about this update was because there was no longer any safety concerns for the community.

It is not believed the woman, whose name was not released, was armed. While Heffer is sure she was not armed when she escaped, there was no guarantee that she didn’t pick up a weapon later. It also remains unclear at this time why the woman was arrested.

According to Heffer, the student reaction Public Safety received from the incident was mostly positive.“My office has received a number of thanks for the way that the messaging and response was conducted,” he said.

Considering the current climate at Goucher College, which has been affected by thefts in the Athenaeum and around campus and by the new overnight visitors policy, the Office of Public Safety is in the process of deciding what actions to take on the following issues: the after-hours access policies to the Athenaeum, “hardening” the Goucher perimeter and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Public Safety is also revising Goucher’s Emergency Response Plan. The current plan is available for students to view on Goucher’s website. They are also developing a new training program for staff, faculty and students “with respect to active violence.”

On October 29, students received an e-mail from President José Bowen detailing some of the changes Pub- lic Safety will be making in the upcoming months. The first change detailed in the e-mail is a back gate near the Campus Hills entrance.“As a first step in a more secure rear entrance, it is proposed that we close Goucher’s back gate at the Campus Hills neighborhood to vehicular traffic by install- ing gate arms or bollards,” Bowen wrote. “These barriers would be removable to ensure emergency vehicles can enter campus if necessary.” There is also the possibility this new entrance will include the addition of a closed circuit camera or a OneCard access point, as well as lighting along the path. The gates will remain open to pedestrians during daylight hours. The front gate to Goucher will have added screening between the hours of 8p.m. to 4a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. All individuals will be required to present a OneCard. Other people entering campus,such as food delivery workers, will be asked to present a state issued I.D. The current visitor’s policy will remain in effect as it is. “It has been pretty successful up until this point,” Heffer said. “But, I would like to remind students of the importance of their role in the success of the program.”The other changes outlined in the e-mai included the instillation of security cameras, which will be discussed in a faculty meeting at the beginning of November.

A policy will also be drafted during the meeting. Goucher will also increase signage to announce that the campus is private. There was also a proposal to turn the loop road into a one-lane, one way traffic circle that will move in a counter-clockwise direction from the entrance. A speed limit reduction and additional speed bumps were also proposed. This change would permit a lane for pedestrians and “golf cart type vehicles.”

One concern that was mentioned in the previous article was Public Safety’s plan to draft a new policy to enact in the event of a school shooting. While the current policy is online for students to view, Public Safety is “actively reevaluating that policy and developing training for civilian response to active shooters,as  well as how to recognize and report threatening or concerning behavior,”according to Heffer. Heffer also pointed out that a Threat Assessment Team model has been put into place to“prevent an active shooter event before it ever happens.” Goucher is a very safe campus,according to the students who took the survey as reported in the last article, which may not be representative of Goucher as a whole. There are many concerns about Public Safety violating student privacy and about sexual offenses occurring on campus. These were not asked during the interview due to the nature of the topics covered. These topics will be addressed by The Quindecim later this year in order to provide Goucher students with the information they deserve.

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