Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
The Ohio State Police Department and the Columbus Division of Police took a step to improve student safety on and off OSU’s campus with the announcement of joint jurisdiction between the police forces.
In a Wednesday Undergraduate Student Government meeting, USG President Taylor Stepp made the announcement that University Police will now be able to take action in the off-campus area if it sees a violent crime or believes one may occur. Equipment, personnel and resources between the two police forces can be shared in some instances, and if requested, University Police can assist the Columbus Police in the off-campus area, an area where they were previously not permitted to patrol. The agreement also allows University Police to act in the off-campus area in an emergency situation, or assist the Columbus Police.
University Police and Columbus Police had a mutual aid agreement in place before the announcement, but the agreement did not allow each department to act independently on the others’ territory.
The purpose of the agreement is “to provide mutual assistance and interchange and use of city (of Columbus) and OSU police resources, to include personnel, facilities and equipment … in order to address criminal activity and emergencies that occur across jurisdictional lines,” according to a document handed out at the meeting.
“The joint jurisdiction is going to give law enforcement agencies flexibility in responding to crime on and off campus,” Stepp said to about 200 students, faculty and staff. “This agreement will help both agencies to better react to criminal activity.”
Stepp said after the meeting this was something he wanted done as soon as possible when he took office in May.
“When I ran for USG president, I made it very clear that I had a five-step safety plan to make sure that we could tackle campus crime,” Stepp said. “This was the No. 1 point, and now we got it done. Capabilities it will have, the resources available to us, the equipment we will have available to us is like nothing that we could have actually done outside of this agreement.”
OSU Police Chief Paul Denton said a mutual aid agreement was on the forefront of some students’ minds even last year.
“This was a student-driven initiative from last fall,” said Denton after the meeting. “Undergraduate Student Government felt it was important to enhance officer presence and responsiveness around the neighborhood and particularly crimes that happened on the borders, where sometimes there were some limits on where officers could and couldn’t go even if they witnessed a crime.”
Members of the Columbus Police also commented on the importance of the agreement.
“The significance is that instead of just being able to see what’s going on and then call it into us based on the crime that’s taking place out there, they’re able to take immediate action,” said Columbus Police Precinct 4 Commander Chris Bowling.
Stepp was clear throughout the meeting that joint jurisdiction will benefit student safety.
“The bottom line is that this is going to help students be safe,” Stepp said. “I don’t see anything really impacting campus safety more than this.”