By Geoffrey Short
After a summer where five Dallas police officers were slain in the streets by an armed assailant, people all over the city had reason to be on high alert. The shooting of police sparked conversation about racial oppression and police mistrust throughout Dallas, the nation and SMU students when they returned to campus this fall.
Some undergraduates were surprised to see that the SMU police department had not taken additional action to increase campus safety, for instance.
“I feel safe for the most part, but I thought they would bring in some more cops,” sophomore Michael Direnzo, a business and finance major said. “Really they should be protecting us from dangers coming from outside campus.”
But the force has no plans to increase security in the wake of the July 7 police killings in downtown, according to SMU Police Chief Rick Shafer. After the Dallas attacks, SMU police increased their awareness status and contacted all off-duty officers to be on notice.
“We have not added any additional staffing to our department as a result of the event,” Shafer said.
University Park police have not added staff either, but officers continue to practice at a gun range four times a week and perform one active shooter simulation a year, according to Crime Prevention Officer Lita Snellgrove. University Park police work closely with SMU police but have different training protocols.
Despite making no changes to the department, the SMU police believe the relationship with students is currently strong, Shafer said.
“We have an overall great relationship with SMU students. The students that we contact for violations are for the most part very polite and cooperate with officers,” Shafer said. “Most tell the truth about what is going on and this helps them when they are facing a conduct hearing or court hearing.”
However, students like Direnzo believe that the police and students do not have the same priorities when it comes to campus safety.
“I’d say stop just patrolling for drunk kids.” Direnzo said. “Those kids aren’t causing big safety issues.”
Although the vast majority of police incidents on campus involve consumption of alcohol by minors or drug paraphernalia charges, there have been 15 thefts and three assault cases this month (as of Sept. 19), with at least one being a sexual assault, according to the SMU police daily crime and fire reports. These numbers do not signal a spike in crime on campus compared to previous years however.
Direnzo added that he would most likely call 9-1-1 in case of emergency instead of calling the SMU police emergency line, which many kids do not know the number of. This is one issue they are trying to address.
September is national emergency preparedness month, and Chief Shafer is urging students to save the SMU police emergency contact number into their phone, which is 214-768-3333. More safety information can be found at www.smu.edu/emergency.