Vandalism and vehicle break-ins inform decision to ramp up surveillance
By Hunter Ellis and Chloe Salveson, Multimedia Managing Editor, Show Manager
“(The department) has been working through the summer on a number of safety initiatives, including enhancing the security camera coverage for our community,” XUPD Chief of Police Robert Warfel stated.
He emphasized that he is not interested in a temporary technological fix that will be outdated in three to five years.
University administrators, including Dr. Colleen Hanycz, president, have been supportive of the comprehensive security coverage enhancement process, according to Warfel.
Warfel explained that XUPD has received bids from four security engineering partners, though one dropped their bid this August. Currently, Silco Fire and Security, Integrated Protection Services (IPS) and Convergint, are offering to upgrade public safety software.
“(Bidders are) providing packages of what they can do, a timeframe and timeline and also the level of integration,” Warfel added. Once a bid is accepted, it must be approved by the Board of Trustees.
According to Warfel, the primary objective of the project will be to increase camera coverage of campus and the area surrounding Xavier. The new cameras will add to the 140 existing security cameras on Xavier grounds.
“We found large greenspace areas that are basically without coverage. Another one is on the perimeters, where we have some of the retail business… It’s a place where our students walk, utilize, and are consumers,” Warfel said. “We want to make sure that we have a much better view, literally, of what’s going on in our surroundings.”
The initiative is projected to begin in the coming weeks, towards the middle of the Fall semester.
“In my best case scenario, I’m looking toward the end of September, trying to get (the initiatives) underway,” Warfel said.
Three instances of vandalism by a White nationalist group, which were declared as bias incidents by the university, propelled the push for strengthened security measures. The most recent bias incident took place on July 31.
“Based on some of the incidents from last year, we wanted to enhance our security coverage as a whole,” Warfel said. “(The vandalism was) a factor. That was impactful. It helped highlight where we had some of the gaps for coverage.”
However, Warfel noted that the vandalisms were not the only circumstances that underlined the need for added security. He also cited car break-ins that occurred on campus and around the city the previous academic year.
“We’ve… watched an uptick in a number of criminal activities in many metropolitan areas, and unfortunately, we were not exempt from that,” Warfel added.
According to Warfel, while cameras do not prevent illicit activity from happening on campus, they are a deterrent for criminal acts and aid XUPD during their investigations.
“The best way to (prevent criminal acts) is having more folks on campus, people sharing suspicious activity, reporting… to XUPD, whether that be through our phone line and dispatch and communications or through the Guardian app,” Warfel voiced.
Student responses to safety surveys also informed XUPD’s plan to expand security measures.
“Towards the end of (last) semester, we sent out a student safety survey. It went to all 5,000 students… 299 students opened it. 260 students completed it,” he said. “There was a blend (of responses). We’re taking that information, putting it into charts and getting consolidated information from that,” Warfel described.
Warfel acknowledged that students are often unaware of safety services provided by police departments. For example, XUPD offers escort services as well as several safety options through their Guardian app.
The Guardian app provides direct connectivity to XUPD to report suspicious or criminal activities. It may be personalized to a student’s device, allowing a student to make anonymous police reports and tracing a student’s location when contacted.
“If you’re concerned about your safety or where you’re traveling, where you’re going, you can activate that. And so when you message or when you make the phone call or when you hit 911… they will let us know and you show up on a map,” Warfel said.
While the additional security measures are pending approval, XUPD has been working on other ways of serving the community.
Warfel noted that this summer the department partnered with the Holocaust & Humanity Center in Cincinnati, educating their full staff with implicit bias trainings. In addition, all XUPD officers have gone to ABLE training, which trains law enforcement officers to be active bystanders.
XUPD is also making an effort to host more community events, like a Life Skills 101 class this fall, and then launching their first ever Citizens Academy in the spring.
These efforts come with no increase to the department’s budget in at least three years.
“We continue to enhance our capabilities to serve, protect and educate the Xavier University community and welcome your input on areas of concern or opportunities for improvement,” Warfel’s statement concluded.