Temple parents, students discuss increased safety measures

Temple University announced new security measures, including increased patrols, on March 23.

With a month left in office, Charles Leone and Campus Safety Services face renewed challenges in protecting the Temple University community and North Central amid an increase in violence across the city. 

“Our number one goal is to keep people safe, and that includes our whole community,” said Charles Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services.  “As the campus community, that’s our neighboring community and that’s always going to be our number one.”

On March 23, Temple shared its latest update regarding plans to increase campus safety initiatives, including creating a security upgrade grant program for landlords near campus, increasing patrols near campus, establishing a neighborhood watch program and helping students who want to relocate into on-campus housing.

Despite the new initiatives, parents of Temple students feel the university’s efforts are still not enough to protect their children, with a few hiring private security companies to patrol the neighborhoods surrounding Main Campus. Some Temple students are supportive of Temple’s moves to expand security initiatives, while others worry about the effect it will have on the North Central community.

Temple introduced its campus safety initiatives in January in response to a rise in violence near Main Campus, including the fatal shootings of Samuel Collington, a 21-year-old senior political science major, on Nov. 28, 2021, and Ahmir Jones, an 18-year-old student who attended Pottstown High School, on Nov. 16, 2021. 

Despite these measures, Jennifer Hedberg, a reading teacher in Cranston, Rhode Island, and mother of a senior industrial and systems engineering major, doesn’t think her child is safe. 

After receiving a phone call from her son informing her of an armed robbery outside of his apartment at 17th Street near Fontain, on Feb. 10, she called multiple protection services within the Philadelphia area to increase security around her son’s off-campus apartment, she said. 

“As moms, we want to do whatever we can and we just can’t wait for other people to take care of the situation,” Hedberg said. 

She contacted Jasmine Jackson, CEO of JNS Protection Services, a private security firm, who agreed to have one car with one to two officers and a manager or a security guard, patrol from Diamond to Master Streets and 15th to 19th Streets six days per week. 

The firm cannot act on scene, but is authorized to give live reports with detailed descriptions of what they see while patrolling. It can alert Temple University Police Department, 911 or the Philadelphia Police Department if they notice crime, violence or suspicious activity, Jackson said. 

Hedberg feels safer knowing more eyes are patrolling the area, she said. 

“I actually don’t feel that there are a lot [of police] patrolling the area,” Hedberg said. 

This may not be the full picture. With more than 6,000 officers, the Philadelphia Police Department is the nation’s fourth-largest police department, behind New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Among the top 10 largest U.S. cities by population, Philadelphia also has the third highest ratio of police officers to residents, with 41 officers per 10,000 people, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations 2019 Uniform Crime Reporting. Only New York City and Chicago have higher rates. 

TUPD currently has 80 officers and plans to add 40 more officers to its ranks — a 50 percent increase — as part of their work to expand campus safety infrastructure. 

Campus Safety Services also has a security division that includes approximately 43 Temple officers and 325 full- and part-time security officers from Allied Universal Security Services, a contract security company. Approximately 40 of these officers are assigned to on-campus student residence halls. 

The University of Pennsylvania has 121 sworn officers. As of 2019, Drexel University’s Police Department has 45 sworn officers.  

Ken Kaiser, Temple’s chief operating officer, understands Hedberg’s concerns for her son, because he is also a parent but is concerned about the addition of private security services.

“We don’t really know a lot about this organization and so it just adds an element of unknown in there that could potentially make things more complicated,” Kaiser said. 

Hedberg received support and funding from other Temple parents, like Andrea Doyle, a driver’s education teacher who lives in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and worries about her daughter’s safety. 

“Safety at Temple is the most important thing, if you don’t feel safe you can’t do anything else, you can’t study, you can’t live if you’re worried about everytime you go on campus,” said Doyle, a parent of a sophomore journalism major and member of the Temple Parent Safety Advisory Committee, a group created to give parents more input about campus safety initiatives.

Worried about crime near campus, Doyle convinced her daughter to get her groceries delivered through HelloFresh and order medication from CVS for delivery, Doyle said. 

Doyle feels that TUPD’s effectiveness is limited because they are restricted in how far they can patrol from Main Campus. She cited a Pennsylvania statute that gives university police the same powers as municipal police in the 500 yards around campus. 

TUPD’s Main Campus patrol zone includes the area between Susquehanna Avenue, Jefferson Street, 18th Street and 9th Street. Between 13th and Broad Street, the patrol zone stretches further south to Girard Avenue.

Campus Safety Services is willing to partner with anybody that can help increase safety, but feels some things are out of their hands, Kaiser said.

“It’s the city and beyond, and so stretching their patrol zone really is not the answer,” Kaiser said. 

Leone believes that TUPD should continue operating in the current patrol zone, and anything else should remain within the control of the Philadelphia Police. 

“If the state decided to give us another mile I’m not sure if that’s what we want to do,” Leone said. “We love our neighborhood community by us, but how far into the neighboring community do we want to go? And is that something that even our neighbors will want us to do?” 

Wendy Mailman thinks Temple’s new security measures aren’t guaranteed to reduce crime near campus. For example, she believes efforts to install lighting and cameras through the landlord grant program won’t prevent offenses that occur during the day, and the neighborhood watch program could put people in danger because its members will be unarmed, she said. 

“I would never be upset with overpolicing of [North Philadelphia],” said Mailman, the mother of a freshman health professions major. 

Zoe Gonzalez, a junior social work major, feels the university’s efforts to improve safety measures both on and off Main Campus will negatively impact the surrounding community.  

Gonzalez doesn’t believe increasing the police presence or installing more lights will make Temple safer and that the university should focus its efforts on addressing the root causes of crime, like poverty.

“We need to build relationships between Temple students and the community and that could help release some of the tension that’s going on,” said Gonzalez, who lives on Willington Street near Montgomery Avenue.

Gonzalez believes the neighborhood watch program could be beneficial if North Central residents are allowed to give input. She’s not interested in relocating to on-campus housing because she worries that moving could contribute to the divide between students and the community.

Neil Patel, a junior finance major, supports the additional police patrols on and near campus because he doesn’t always feel safe. Last month, a group of children tried to grab his phone while he was walking on Polett Walk toward Broad Street, he said.

“Usually when I walk during morning and afternoon time, it’s safe, but when I walk during nighttime, sometimes I get that creepy vibe,” Patel said. 

Patel uses FLIGHT shuttles to visit friends who live off campus and often waits roughly a half hour for a shuttle to arrive. He wants Temple to increase the frequency of shuttles for students who need to travel off campus. 

The university launched FLIGHT, Temple’s on-demand evening shuttle service which operates seven days a week, in 2016, but the service struggled to keep up with a rise in  student requests during the Fall 2021 semester, prompting the university to work to increase its availability.

In February, the university launched Rave Guardian, a campus safety app offering virtual escorts, a panic button and text dispatch to the TUPD and 911, for students and faculty who feel unsafe. 

Students can directly text with TUPD through the app and send them pictures or videos, or use the panic button for emergency situations and use the virtual escort feature that lets TUPD track the user’s location. If students do not respond after reaching their destination, TUPD will send responders. 
Looking ahead, Charles Ramsey will proceed with an audit of Campus Safety Services, set to begin next month. Leone will assist in the process until he steps down on April 29.

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