UPD addresses safety on UB campuses

Chief Schoenle and students weigh in on campus security


Jessica Reznik feels it can be “really creepy” walking on North Campus at night.

Reznik, a senior communication major, was closely followed by a male while walking to Capen library last month. She said better lighting on campus would make her feel more comfortable walking alone at night.

The University Police Department (UPD) makes changes in police operations every year, according to UPD Chief Gerald Schoenle. There are 64 blue light emergency phones on North
Campus and 21 blue light phones on South Campus, according to UB’s website. UB is experiencing record-low crime rates with an increase in bike thefts. Many students feel mostly safe on campus but said there can be more blue emergency lights and general streetlights.

UPD is already doing most of what is considered “best practice,” according to Schoenle. Schoenle attended a security presentation at the White House on Aug. 4 on 21st century policing. UPD is currently reviewing “a pretty voluminous” document on best practices to see if there’s something UB should be doing.

UB has more blue emergency lights than any other SUNY campus or any New York State campus, according to Schoenle.

“If you look on campus, any place you’re at you can see a blue light phone, pretty much that’s how it’s placed,” Schoenle said.

Other SUNY schools, such as Stony Brook University, have adopted campus safety apps, such as Rave Guardian Campus Safety App. The app features a panic button that enables an immediate connection with campus police with GPS information and personal profile information, according to the Rave mobile safety website.

One or two SUNY campuses have adopted this app as a replacement for the blue light emergency phones, according to Schoenle.

Schoenle doesn’t “necessarily think it is a good idea.” UPD has looked at campus safety apps such as Rave Guardian, but Schoenle thinks the app is more beneficial on smaller campuses.

Although most emergencies are dispatched from cell phones, Schoenle said the blue lights are a nice safety feature to have.

“If you take a look at our campus at night, it does kind of make a lot of people feel a lot safer seeing all those lights out there, knowing that they can just press a button and get immediate response if they need it,” Schoenle said.

There are over 1,000 security cameras on both North and South campuses, according to Schoenle.

Some students feel safer at night on North Campus than South.

Danielle Maresca, a sophomore psychology major, feels safe walking alone at night on North but she feels South Campus is “sketchy.” She said the blue emergency lights make her feel safer, but she feels there could be more of them because of how “huge” the campus is.

“No one really loiters the academic area [on North Campus] late at night. It’s mostly just students walking back to their dorms,” Maresca said. “I think that’s probably why South Campus isn’t that safe because it’s right near the neighborhoods.”

Maresca has heard about many incidents on and around South Campus, such as the apparent air pistol assault last September and the shootings in the surrounding neighborhood, so she associates South Campus with that.

UB was placed on the federal government sexual assault watch list after an allegation of an on-campus sexual assault was made on May 12. However, Schoenle said this “ certainly doesn’t mean anything about [UB’s] safety,” and has no reflection on UPD.

“All this means was someone made an inquiry with the department of education civil rights section and it’s being looked into. Unfortunately, the way the system works, you stay on the list,” Schoenle said.

UB is taking its active shooter drills to “the next level,” Schoenle said. The last drill took place on Aug. 14 on North Campus. The Amherst Police Department, fire and ambulance services were involved along with student actors to create “a more realistic training scenario.”

This is the first active shooter drill that involved all of UPD’s stakeholders, according to Schoenle.

“It’s a little bit disruptive to do [this drill] during the school year so we try to avoid that. The ones we have done in the past we try to schedule during downtime, but we’re certainly going to do more drills like that,” Schoenle said.

Schoenle said there will be “what to do in an active shooter situation as a student” 20- minute trainings in the Student Union theater this semester. Schoenle is setting up the training dates with Student Life.

Last year when a man was reported to have dropped a gun in the Student Union, UPD increased presence on campus and no suspect was found.

In an emergency situation, UPD would send out an alert and the building or area would be evacuated.

“We just have such a very low crime rate on our campus and we do have pretty good visibility with officers in patrol cars and bicycles,” according to Schoenle. “As far as on campus, we are experiencing almost record low crime rates, we’re happy to say.”

Bike theft is the only crime rate that has gone up within the past two years, he said.

On Halloween there will be more police staff working and there will be extra shifts, according to Schoenle.

UPD maintains a daily log of on-campus incidents and crimes, available for the public to view.

Hannah Stein is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at hannah.stein@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahJStein