Campus security ensures safety amid crime rise

Written By Brett Powers, For The Globe

Violent crime rates went up 5.6% in the City of Pittsburgh compared to the first half of 2021, according to data released by the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety on Aug. 4, 2021. In Pittsburgh Police’s most recent report in October, however, violent crimes were down 2.5% and property crimes increased by 9% in August 2021. By contrast, on Point Park’s campus, recent violations have included non-violent crimes such as drug violations, public intoxication and trespassing.

The university campus extends from Forbes Avenue to Fort Pitt Blvd, resting in the heart of Pittsburgh where crimes happen from time to time.

“I feel very safe on campus, and I do think that Point Park security would keep me and campus safe,” said Tommy Sanders, a freshman, musical theatre major. “On the other hand, I hear about crimes weekly.”

On university grounds, the campus security division was started in 2011, consisting of only five officers who were mainly limited to bike and foot patrol. In 2021, the campus has expanded its security by adding 600 cameras presiding over the buildings and streets associated with the university. There is an officer who monitors the cameras in Frontier Hall every day and can see what is happening on multiple television screens.

“I feel very safe on campus even though it’s right in downtown Pittsburgh,” said Leah Verdi, a freshman sports, arts and entertainment management (SAEM) major. “Everything from dorms to classrooms are not a far walk, which helps.”

The university has required campus security staff to complete 751 hours of training at a certified police academy. Along with training, campus officers carry firearms to protect students and staff from danger.

“I was one of five hired [campus security officers] and I have been serving here since the campus security began,” said university police Deputy Chief Nicholas Black. “I liked the idea of building a police force from the ground up.”

According to Deputy Chief Black, he, along with other campus security officers, have grown the university police force to what it is today. More officers have been recruited with the required amount of training.

“The unknown is everywhere,” Deputy Chief Black said. “There are so many different people which means that you always have to be on your toes and proactive.”

The Point Park University Police offers emergency notifications through the PointALERT system. These notifications come in the form of text messages whenever emergencies and other crime-related incidents occur on campus. Students, staff and faculty are able to opt into the PointALERT system through PointWeb.

Alongside the PointALERT system, campus security enforces safety protocols such as the nationally recognized ALICE program. Also known as Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate, ALICE provides active shooter training, serving as a guide on how to respond to the threat of an active shooter.

“ALICE ensures that the whole school has a set plan so that if the police find themselves in one area of the campus while students and faculty in another, we can still make smart, formulated decisions,” Sanders said.

Chief Deputy Black also believes that ALICE is an important tool that has been helpful in providing statistics for campus safety.
“ALICE is something to go off of, a guideline,” Deputy Chief Black said. “It makes the most sense in regard to statistics, and it is a good starting tool.”

On campus, Deputy Chief Black states that loitering and trespassing are the top crimes that are committed around the university. These crimes occur from outside associates of the university, none of the crimes being committed by students. Most of the offenses have been caught on security monitors that are placed around campus, aiding in the actions taken by campus police.

“I think it is important that students know to carry pepper spray and move outside in groups and not alone,” Sanders said.
Verdi also provided advice for students to remain safe on campus.

“One important thing students should know is to always walk with others when going places that are not on campus, especially at night,” Verdi said. “Also, report anything that does not seem right.”

“Think on your feet, overcome situations, and stay ahead of the game,” Deputy Chief Black said.