Some Ohio State and Columbus officials think several of the past year’s initiatives have improved campus safety.
Speaking at an Undergraduate Student Government meeting, Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Tom Quinlan said the agreement between University Police and the Columbus Division of Police was an improvement of the system that needs to be continued.
University Police Chief Paul Denton and Quinlan came to the USG meeting Tuesday evening to conduct a town hall discussion on campus safety, along with OSU Senior Vice President for Administration and Planning Jay Kasey and Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston.
Adams-Gaston praised the police agreement during the talk and said it was the result of “relentless” pressure by USG and other students.
“We don’t get it right every day, but every day, it is important to us and we talk all about this or that happening and things we could do differently,” she said.
The agreement, signed September 2012, allows University Police to take action against felonies or misdemeanor thefts or violent offenses officers observe off-campus, as long as officers are on campus or traveling to or from campus while they observe the incident.
University Police are not allowed to enforce traffic violations, except in situations that present a safety concern. That exception has allowed University Police to enforce drunk driving laws in the campus area over the past year.
The agreement allows University Police to temporarily bypass the jurisdiction law that limits University Police authority to OSU property. Those laws had made officers’ work more difficult in the past, Denton said.
“Is it efficient? No. Is it something that the bad guys know? Absolutely, and they’ll exploit that and oftentimes victimize people because of those legal boundaries that have been set up,” he said.
Before the agreement existed, University Police were often powerless bystanders to off-campus crime, Denton said.
“If a crime occurs off-campus, we would have no ability to walk over there and take any action,” he said. “If we saw someone getting beat up or your bike getting stolen, we would literally have to watch it and call our friend at Columbus (Division of Police) to respond to it.”
Quinlan explained there are other areas of cooperation that are advanced by the agreement as well. University and Columbus police officers now share resources, including canine units and horse-mounted police forces, for major events.
Quinlan said he and Denton have also increased communication with one another in recent years. He said they now immediately contact each other about any OSU-related incident that occurs within their jurisdictions.
Adams-Gaston said the joint jurisdiction agreement makes OSU “one of the most robust student safety constituencies in the country.”
Kasey said safety planning at OSU involves more than crime, though.
“Safety, to me, goes beyond crime. It go to those horrendous accidents that many of us were involved in trying to understand a year ago, which were basically pedestrian, bicycle and car accidents,” Kasey said. “We take that very, very seriously, because you can be hurt just as easily as you can be stolen from or molested. So we’re trying to do a variety of things to keep you safe when you’re traversing campus or going off-campus.”
A string of traffic-related accidents during Fall Semester 2012 led to the creation of a Traffic Safety Task Force.
USG President Taylor Stepp said after the meeting that USG organized the meeting because of safety concerns that have been raised.
“We had a lot of questions over the year about safety, and what USG was doing, what the university was doing, and what the city was doing. I just wanted to provide a forum for students to have a conversation about not only what they’d like to see,” Stepp said. “That’s important and that’s healthy for everyone. You might get some tough questions, but you’ll only get a positive outcome.”