Street smarts and Campus Safety Services’ dedication are crucial for a safe learning environment.
We have all heard the idea that anyone who attends Temple has a strong chance of getting mugged, or even shot. This belief has been in the back of our heads since freshman year, and it was not uncommon to hear, “Oh, you’re going to Temple? Don’t get shot!” from friends and even family members.
Much has happened that would give them this perception – last November, Temple Student Government President Natalie Ramos-Castillo came home and found her apartment had been broken into and her television set and laptop were stolen. More recently, two 17-year-olds – who are not Temple students – were hospitalized and listed in critical condition after being shot Sept. 24 at 10 p.m. near Broad and Jefferson streets.
These incidents create a scary reality.
However, after living on Main Campus unscathed for over a month, I realize this myth is a common misconception that plagues the university’s reputation.
As I prepared for my freshman orientation back in July, I told a friend I was planning to take the train to and from Main Campus. She warned me about the “150-yard dash,” an extremely dangerous stretch of road between the train station and campus, she told me, through which students must sprint to guarantee their safety.
At orientation, I courageously and casually walked the 150-yard dash twice. At the end of this “frightening” venture, my wallet remained in my pocket and not a single bullet had protruded my skin. Not only did I feel like a myth-buster, but I felt ridiculous for listening to my friend in the first place.
During orientation, and my stay at Temple so far, I could not help but notice the large number of police officers patrolling the area. The officers keep campus under constant surveillance, and if one street corner is left unaccounted for, about five security cameras and a blue emergency phone are there to do the job.
While technology and the abundance of officers are impressive, one may wonder about the effectiveness of the cameras or the thoroughness of the training Campus Safety Services officers receive.
Carl Bittenbender, the executive director of CSS, had 26 years of experience with the Philadelphia Police Department before he began his career at Temple. He said the 600 cameras on Main Campus are used mainly for investigative purposes and can be tapped into at any time from the CSS control room. He also said the blue emergency phones scattered throughout campus perform “self-checks” to ensure they are fully operational.
Officers on campus have received police academy training, so to deem them “rent-a-cops” would be nowhere near accurate. The officers are part of Temple’s state-certified police department, so students and faculty are in good hands.
With CSS’s presence, students living nearby Main Campus benefit.
“The further away you are from campus, the less service you have,” Bittenbender said.
And while officers may not exactly be able to make promises to students’ parents about the safety of their children, Bittenbender said he and CSS do their absolute best.
“What I will guarantee is that myself and all of the members of Campus Safety Services will work as hard as we possibly can to provide a safe environment for their son or daughter,” he said.
That dedication in mind, Temple should not receive such negative, misguided notoriety as an unsafe location for its students.
While students can feel safer knowing that CSS works as vigilantly as as possible, they should not let their guard down or carelessly stroll through Main Campus without a care in the world.
There is always a risk factor, despite the strength of the police and security presence. At night, always be accompanied by a friend and stay on well-lit streets and walks. Take advantage of university-provided bus services, such as the Owl Loop and TUr Door, to help get on and off campus safely.
Temple can keep campus safe, as long as everyone remembers to play it safe. Always remember that it is because of CSS and our own common sense that we can enjoy our college experience with a sense of comfort.
Colin Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.