Mickens: Who can afford to save North Philly?

Can Temple fight crime in North Philadelphia alone?

Thomas Mickens Jr.

Thomas Mickens Jr.Campus safety is a main concern amongst Temple students. We should thank our lucky stars that Temple Police and local government feel the same way.

According to an Aug. 27 Philadelphia Inquirer article, Barack Obama has warned 15 big city mayors, including Philadelphia’s own Michael Nutter, that there isn’t enough federal money to fund more crime fighting.

As such, Mayor Nutter is instead calling for “corporate and philanthropic communities” to help end Philadelphia’s crime problem. In terms of private crime fighting entities within Philadelphia, Temple certainly sits atop this list, as the university commands a comparatively massive police force that was the fourth-largest in Pennsylvania back in 1989. According to the Department of Justice, the TUPD controlled the second-largest force of sworn university officers in the country during the 2004-2005 school year, commanding 119 full-fledged cops, second only to Howard University’s 166. The number has since grown to more than 130.

As a sophomore, I’ve grown accustomed to the TU Alert emails, but it really hit me when I got one on Aug. 19, just a day after I arrived on campus. What a nice, warm North Philadelphia welcome. Seriously, you shouldn’t have.

Perhaps it’s these same email alerts that remind me of shootings, robberies, muggings and other acts of crime over the last year or so that have numbed my feelings on the matter, but it still worries me nonetheless.

Crime isn’t stopping anytime soon, so safety must still be taken seriously in North Philadelphia.

Here’s the good news: Mayor Nutter, the TUPD and campus safety are on it.

According to Charlie Leone, deputy director of Campus Safety Services, there has been a drastic improvement in campus safety in the past three years.

“Year to date, we’re at a 22 percent decrease in crime compared to last year,” Leone said.

Much of the recent success has to do with Temple Campus Safety Services’ Safety Action Plan, a layered system of protection that’s designed to decrease violence around Temple’s campus.

Philadelphia police patrol the outside layer in certain areas that may be out of the reach of TUPD’s assigned primary jurisdiction areas, such as the intersection of 16th and Diamond streets.

The TUPD envelopes the second layer, which is used as a barrier to protect the people inside Main Campus.

Formerly unbeknownst to me, the TUPD has its own Police Academy at the Ambler Campus. The Temple University Police Academy’s Acting Director Robert Deegan characterizes the training as rigorous and physically demanding. Temple’s finest must be equipped with a high school diploma or a GED equivalent, read at a ninth grade level and possess a clean criminal record.

Allied Barton, the men and women dressed in yellow and usually patrolling on bikes, are used to further fortify Temple’s campus.

The last layer of the Safety Action Plan is comprised of those who run ID checks and guard the academic buildings, typically also employees of Allied Barton.

The plan is sensible and very functional. Campus Safety Services clearly has the blueprint for security in North Philly, but as long as students are getting TU Alerts in my email, there’s still work to be done.

So where does the mayor’s new plan fit into on campus safety’s blueprint? Leone doesn’t know yet.

“There’s already some initiative involved, it’s not really formalized with the mayor’s initiative, but it will probably one day go hand in hand,” Leone said.

If the two parties are to continue to coordinate efforts, what is in store for the future for safety on Temple’s campus? Is expansion out of the question? More bikes on the ground, more guards in the buildings, more Philly cops patrolling North Philadelphia neighborhoods on those congested Friday nights.

Is this what mayoral pressure will do for Temple? More boots on the ground doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, but it could put a damper on the party culture at Temple.

Students are already getting cited for underage drinking. If Nutter wants things to run a bit tighter, will drunk students be told to “just get home,” or will there be tougher consequences?

Only time will tell what Mayor Nutter’s plans are for the future. With a ton of work to be done to improve campus safety, it will be interesting to see how these changes will affect the Temple community. Hopefully there are less TU Alert emails in everyone’s future.

Thomas Mickens Jr. can be reached at tmickensjr@temple.edu.

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