Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Safety not guaranteed beyond back gates – Los Angeles Loyolan.
I’m in the midst of my third year living on campus at LMU, and while I love my roommates and my gorgeous bluff-side view, whenever I hear friends talking about living off campus, I get a little jealous. “The freedom!” they cry out. “The affordability!” they scream in joy. It’s hard not to be green with envy.
Then, in the process of editing the Oct. 22 Loyolan article“Westchester sees rise in burglaries this year” I read that, according to Department of Public Safety (DPS) Chief, Hampton Cantrell, DPS’s response to a call about a possible prowler at an off-campus home was handled by referring the caller to Los Angeles Police Department.
Suddenly, I’m not so jealous. Now I’m just angry.
While in said article, DPS made clear that burglaries on campus were not up, contrary to what student word on campus had seemed to reflect, the safety of the LMU community does not end at the back gates. With 47 percent of students living off campus, according to “US News & World Report,” their safety and security is just as vital.
To quote Cantrell directly, in this particular instance, “A student called us [the other day] about a possible prowler around a house of young women, so we advised them to call LAPD.” The students in said house, assumedly in the Westchester neighborhood and very close to LMU, were reporting that they did not feel safe in their own home. In my mind, that is a very clear signal to DPS that said students were asking for assistance. Calling LAPD on their behalf was the least the responding officer could do. Sending an officer out to investigate would have been far more ideal.
I’m concerned for the student who wastes his or her time calling DPS when their home is being broken into – after all, those are precious seconds you could be calling LAPD and getting real assistance.
Perhaps not coincidentally, junior screenwriting major Tierney Finster, who lives in a Westchester residence, called DPS about a prowler approximately two weeks ago. According to Finster, she was told that there was nothing DPS could do, and that she should call LAPD. If she was the caller Cantrell mentioned, then it’s alarming that DPS said that they could do nothing. If she wasn’t, then that implies two different houses with prowlers outside have made such calls and been referred to LAPD – which is even more worrisome.
I suppose you could argue DPS is only charged with the responsibility of handling on-campus issues, but that’s a losing argument. In the Sept. 10 Loyolan article“Public Safety more prominent off-campus,” it was reported that – according to Cantrell – DPS actively responds to complaints from neighbors about off-campus disturbances at the homes of LMU students. In fact, DPS is so quick at responding to these complaints that Cantrell said, “Oftentimes, our officers do arrive before the [LAPD] arrives.” If only they could apply that same efficiency to responding to non-party-related complaints off campus.
You could argue that the home with the prowler Cantrell mentioned was outside DPS’s jurisdiction. However, Finster’s home is within a one-mile radius of LMU. The radius in which Cantrell told the Loyolan DPS stays in when responding to off-campus complaints? You guessed it: one mile. Which begs the question: Why did DPS say there was nothing they could do?
DPS’s policy is totally inconsistent and cuts far too closely to favoring the well being of Westchester residents complaining about “those crazy college kids” than the students who make up the University community. Certainly, responding to off-campus complaints is going to be part of DPS’s role from now until the end of time. There’s no changing that. What can change, however, is this paralysis on DPS’s part to actively assist students off campus when they feel threatened.
My suggestion is this: If one mile is indeed the radius in which DPS responds to off-campus complaints about partying, then one mile should be the radius in which DPS responds to all off-campus complaints. There’s a prowler outside a house of students? Send an officer to check it out. A robbery just took place? DPS should be the first response. I understand that once there, DPS officers’ ability to help might be limited, but this is why responding officers should be contacting LAPD on their way to the scene. Simply having a DPS officer respond can go a long way to making students feel safer.
If, for some unforeseeable reason, this plan is impossible to implement, then students should be able to contact DPS with a complaint and have an officer contact LAPD on their behalf. It’s not ridiculous that a student would call DPS first – after all, we’re trained as freshmen to memorize DPS’s number, log it in our phones and use them as our primary resource. DPS officers contacting LAPD from there makes perfect sense.
By following through with one of these plans, DPS can go a long way to making their policies about off-campus student life more consistent and more dedicated to assisting students. Until then, I’ll be staying on campus, where I know I don’t have to worry about DPS responding to my concerns. The bluff-side view more than makes up for it.