Occidental is a school that prides itself on fostering a sense of community for students, faculty and staff. In order to protect this community, having a strong Campus Safety department is vital. Campus Safety has faced an increased amount of criticism over the course of this school year from the student body ranging from its handling of an on-campus detainment earlier this year to its officers’ bulletproof vests. As a result of this outspoken criticism, there is a general lack of appreciation from the community for the effort Campus Safety puts in to keep us as safe as possible. This is unfortunate, because the officers go to great lengths to protect our campus, and that is something we should be commending them for.
Occidental is located in Eagle Rock, an area that within the last six months has had a higher crime rate than in nearby neighborhoods such as Highland Park Glassell Park and Mount Washington. According to available crime statistics, in the seven-month span from August 2015 to March 2016, approximately 187 crimes occurred within a mile of our campus, with virtually none happening on our grounds. For reference, there has been a string of dangerous incidents in the surrounding neighborhood occurring every single month since November. The types of incidents in the area include two shootings in November and January, a bomb threat in December, a gunman on the run in February, suspicious activity from a local gang in March and a burglary incident in April. Each time an issue arose, Campus Safety responded appropriately for the situation and in a way that prioritized students’ senses of safety, despite being on an open campus. We should thank our Campus Safety department for being the first line of defense in protecting us from these potentially dangerous situations that take place within walking distance from our campus.
Campus Safety also does a phenomenal job of informing us of exactly when and where crimes occur, so that we can keep ourselves out of harm’s way when necessary. Campus Safety operates under the Clery Act, which requires that the department report crimes on or near campus in addition to keeping a daily crime log. The department also sends direct alerts via email and text so that we are aware of anything that could potentially harm us. The steady communication from Campus Safety is a reliable outlet from which we can obtain information about potential dangers near campus without having to go out of our way to look for it. Knowing ahead of time where there is danger can allow people to put themselves in the right place at the right time and take the precautionary measures that are necessary.
Yet Campus Safety has been involved in controversy at times — most prevalently, perhaps, this past September in an incident at the Green Bean. Initially causing a campus-wide dispute, this event consisted of a allegedly intoxicated and mentally ill man causing disruption in the Green Bean, which led to one of the present student employees’ discomfort. Campus Safety promptly called the Los Angeles Fire Department to assess the situation, and the conclusion that he was intoxicated was the impetus for his detainment by LAPD. Despite facing a great deal of criticism from the student body, Campus Safety responded in a timely manner to the incident. After making an official statement following the event, a town hall meeting in mid-October allowed students to air their grievances and let Campus Safety officials discuss how they planned to better serve the Occidental community. This kind of open communication and the quick response from Campus Safety is a testament to their ongoing loyalty to the needs of students and the values of Occidental, even when they don’t handle situations in the manner that we would like them to.
Like every department in some respect, Campus Safety has had some missteps. The mistakes have sparked responses from the community, and the organization has responded to those concerns accordingly. Despite these mistakes, Campus Safety’s commitment to keeping Occidental safe is undeniable. In a time where violent crimes in the nearby area surrounding Occidental are frequent, the work of the Campus Safety department is more important than ever. While we go through our day-to-day lives balancing classes, work and other activities that the typical college student engages in, our Campus Safety officers are working tirelessly to keep our campus safe from harm, and that is something we should appreciate.
Carson Malbrough is a sophomore politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.