A night on the town

In a crowd, you can’t miss them. Main Campus Police officers – and their distinguishable bright yellow shirts – make it their job to keep students safe.

A dozen officers patrol the campus by foot, bike and car on any given night. Kiosk security stands and 124 video cameras also work to keep tabs on area activity, from Liacouras Walk to the most hidden corners of campus.

Officers back at the nucleus of activity, the Communications Center, are in constant contact with police on the streets. Here, all calls, alarms and cameras are fielded by dispatchers to provide officers on the street with an extra set of eyes and ears. When a crime occurs, the Center knows about it, and officers aren’t far behind.

Their system of communication is a 24-hour daily dance that only they know, until now.

The following is an account of a 60-minute stay in the Communications Center and a 90-minute ride-along with a Temple police officer last Thursday evening.

There was little excitement at the Temple Police Communications Center Thursday at 1101 W. Montgomery Ave. In half an hour’s time, a few odd emergency exit alarms had been the most stirring activity.

At 10:50 p.m., a student called the station. Dispatcher Cynthia Robinson fielded the call.

The student told Robinson that he was flashed a black gun while walking down the ramp adjacent to the Johnson and Hardwick residence halls. Robinson asked questions, repeating his answers for Sgt. Anthony Edwards, sitting in the seat beside her, to file a report into the system.

“Alright – this is a black male with a black hoodie on,” Robinson reported over the radio.

Robinson’s reports are heard through car radios of the dozen or so officers on duty during any given night. If a call is taken alerting the team to a robbery in progress, officers hear the live call and can take immediate action.

Cpl. Enoch McCoy entered the room and took the call from Robinson, who switched gears to speak over the radio with police on duty.

“Was the guy dark-complexioned, light-complected, what?” McCoy asked the student over the phone, who left J&H and called the station from Oxford Village.

“Dark-complected?” McCoy confirmed with the student.

“He said he was standing in front of J&H,” Robinson said into the radio.

“Hold on, hold on. He was walking down a ramp on the side of J&H, that’s when the male first approached him,” McCoy corrected her.

The necessary information gathered, officers quickly reported to Oxford Village to question the complainant further and take him for a ride-along to see if he could identify the suspect on the streets.

The call came in 15 minutes after the male with the black hoodie was last seen at J&H. The case may have been cold, but Temple Police continued to follow it throughout the night.

His robbery foiled, the suspect may still have been on the prowl.

“He might be a regular. He might do the same thing again, in the same location and the same area, ya know?” Robinson said.

McCoy, a patrolling officer that night, moved to leave the Center. It was time to hit the streets.

Approaching midnight, the campus was bustling with people. Thursday night McCoy and the rest of the shift’s patrols were on the lookout for a male fitting the description of the attempted robbery suspect from J&H.

However, the description of the suspect – black male, black hoodie, dark pants – fit just about every male in the area.

“Black male, black hoodie – everybody walking down the street,” McCoy said.

Thursday night his patrolling began on the northwest end of campus, near J&H and Berks Street. Here, he cruised one way streets and back alleys at about 10 mph.

“I watch ’em all, trust me. I don’t miss nobody,” he said.

At around 12:20 a.m., a robbery in progress was reported over the radio. Lights and siren switched on, McCoy’s SUV flew across Broad Street and through red lights to reach the scene.

He arrived in a matter of seconds, but the case was already old. Undercover Philadelphia police frequently cruise Main Campus and its bordering streets in a silver Grand Prix, specifically on the lookout for burglary.

That night the Grand Prix passed a man knelt beside the door of a Toyota Celica. Realizing he was being watched, the man stood up and walked away – and then a screwdriver dropped from his pocket.

The Philadelphia police stopped the man and questioned him about the screwdriver and the car, suspecting he was attempting to break in.

By the time McCoy reached the scene, the man was already in the back of the police car.

“Now that’s good stuff,” he said.

McCoy got back into his car. His shift ends around 3:30 a.m. – it is now 12:30 a.m.

McCoy worked his own shift Thursday night, but Main Campus police typically work in three shifts; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. They routinely patrol Main Campus and beyond, infiltrating neighborhoods from Ninth to 16th and Susquehanna to Oxford streets.

“I’m taking all ya’ll to the back woods,” he said.

His SUV creeped down Park Avenue and 11th Street. There are no stadium lighting or blue light emergency phones there, but Temple students still live on these off-campus streets.

“If there are students there and we know it, then Temple’s going to have someone on it,” McCoy said.

“It’s nothing but a drug haven, and Temple students live back here,” he said. “I wouldn’t want my children living on these back streets.”

Around 1 a.m., McCoy is still on the lookout for a black male in a black hoodie. On 11th and Diamond streets, he came upon something different.

A beat-up, green Plymouth Voyager – the only car parked on that side of the street – was illuminated from an inside light. In the car, a man paged through papers and threw various objects to the side, rummaging for something it appeared he had yet to find.

McCoy got out of the car and approached the man, proceeding to ask him for identification.

What should have been a routine pedestrian stop became a heated dispute between man and officer.

“This is my car! This is my car!” the man screamed at McCoy.

McCoy flipped the man on his stomach, grabbing his hands at his back to hold him down as his body contorted under McCoy’s grasp.

Sirens began an eerie wail in the background, and within seconds, two police cars swooped beside the van, soon followed by another three officers on bikes.

A total of 11 police officers arrived to the scene, their lights brightening what was just a dark, empty street moments earlier.

It was determined that the car did belong to the man, and the police left the scene as quickly as they came. Cars passing by slowed to catch a glimpse of what action remained.

The man was let go for the second time that night – this is the same man the Philadelphia undercover police officer saw attempt to break into the Toyota Celica about 45 minutes before.

“They didn’t find anything on him – so they let the guy go,” McCoy said.

McCoy calmly positioned himself back into the front seat of the SUV.

“That was kind of fun – that got my adrenaline going. I feel like I’m on Cops,” he said, referring to the reality-TV show.

McCoy left the scene and drove toward Broad Street. He pointed to the fraternity buildings lining the 2000 block of Broad Street.

“They’re all having their little parties tonight,” he said.

McCoy scanned a group of students congregated in front of the Owl’s Nest. There was no black hoodie in sight.

“I’d really like to see this guy in the black hoodie – right around the corner, just standing there,” he said.

For the next two and a half hours he passed many corners, his eyes always on alert for the elusive black hoodie.

Sammy Davis can be reached at S.Davis@temple.edu.

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