Following the stabbing that took place behind LeLacheur Park by East Campus late last month, UMass Lowell police officers and other university officials have assured students that they are safe on campus.
James Kohl, Dean of Student Affairs and Enrichment, says that the safety of every member of the UMass Lowell community is of the utmost importance, and outlined the protocol that new students and students living on campus are made aware of during the beginnings of each semester.
“We have a real focus on [safety] during the first Floor Meetings,” Kohl said. “Students are taught tips to keep themselves safe and on safety precautions in their residence halls… we also have security from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to verify people’s identity and for guest sign in.”
Outside of the dorms and even outside of campus, UMass Lowell’s safety protocol extends further to ensure that students do not feel like they are not being protected.
UML Campus Resource Officer Jeff Connors also echoed Kohl and said that the UMass Lowell Police Department runs 24 hours, every day, all year long.
“We have 30 uniformed officers… we’re driving to certain areas of the campus, walk in buildings, check areas and other day to day stuff,” Connors said. “If you’re at the university, you have three police departments that are potentially working for you (Lowell Police and the National Park Rangers).”
Officer Connors and Kohl also see student safety as a partnership and would like to see students practice certain safety habits such as walking in groups or pairs.
“We would really prefer not to see students walking alone at night,” Connors said. “What we promote is that if [a student] is concerned about someone or something, call us. We’re not looking to get people in trouble, we’re looking to make sure students stay safe.”
Connors also said that he encourages the use of the university shuttles, which run until two in the morning, as well as the popular Rave Guardian app, which gives students easier access to contact university police and can identify and locate any student if they are unable to communicate with the UMass Lowell Police dispatcher.
Even if a student is unable to access a phone, UMass Lowell has a contingency plan set up for that. The university has “Blue Phones” set up in many areas around campus to call university Police and these phones are also placed in front of university owned security cameras for around the clock monitoring.
“The presence of Blue Phones has been part of the planning process for construction projects as the campus has expanded,” Kohl said. “As our campus expands and our boundaries get further out, the installation of Blue Phones is part of the planning process [to ensure safety].”
As far as reaction to the stabbing and it’s closeness to campus, Connors said that the area was technically Lowell Police’s jurisdiction, but in that event, university security and police are tipped off that an incident had occurred so the word could be spread to students and staff and keep everyone aware and safe.
“By having more police officers, students who walk by and are wondering what happened, we can eliminate some of the extra fear that something might be going on,” Connors said.
Christine Gillette, the Director of Media Relations, says that the decision to inform the UMass Lowell community comes from the Clery Act, which federally requires all universities that participate in financial aid to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses.
“It was determined that [the stabbing] was not something that posed a danger to campus, so we posted a Timely Warning… and that went out within an hour of when the incident occurred,” Gillette said. “Had there been an emergency, an Emergency Notification would’ve been sent out immediately. That was not the case. If there’s an immediate danger or perceived danger, then an Emergency Notification would be sent out right away.”
Gillette also said that they try not to send out too many Timely Warning notifications because they do not want students to start ignoring them if they get too many.
UMLPD also publishes an annual report of reported crimes on campus, off campus and on public property so students can see what has been reported. All the standards and guidelines are per the Clery Act and show statistics from the past three years. Those statistics can be found on the UML website under the university police tab.
For any incidents, Kohl and Connors said that talking to Resident Advisors and police is something that should be done even if the students are unsure if they should bother.
“We would prefer if students called us to have us check something out instead of saying, ‘Oh, I wasn’t sure if I should say anything,’” Connors said. “We’d rather look into something then have it turn into something and we’re investigating it.”
Kohl added that he thinks it is important that the police on campus have a strong relationship with the students, so the students are willing to use the police as a resource. Certain officers are assigned to specific dorms to create a familiarity between the students and officers.
“We can solve a lot of people’s fears and anxieties by just talking about certain situations,” Connors said.