Next Steps to Enhance Campus Safety

To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer
Date: May 28, 2008

I am writing to bring you up to date regarding our additional plans to address campus safety.

Earlier this year, I wrote to you outlining a number of actions including a significant increase in the number of police deployed in our coverage area, the addition of a police substation at 61st and Drexel, an increase in the resources and hours of the late-night van service, and further improvements in lighting. At that time, I indicated that we would be convening a Campus Safety and Security Committee, chaired by Dean Richard Rosengarten and Vice President Kimberly Goff-Crews, to conduct a thorough review of the University’s policies, procedures, and initiatives related to safety and to seek the input of the broad University community. We also engaged the Bratton Group, an external security consulting firm, to review the University’s allocation of police resources and to make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of our overall policing efforts.

I want to thank the Campus Safety and Security Committee, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and community members, for its thoughtful work. The committee’s report, which was derived from extensive discussions with members of the University community and an assessment of best practices at other institutions, is available here (PDF). The recommendations of the committee are complemented by those made by our external consultants. The insights and recommendations of both groups provide the rationale and context for a set of immediate steps, outlined below, designed to provide increased leadership and coordination of safety efforts, increase the visibility of police on campus, strengthen transportation services, improve communication and crime reporting, expand safety education, and better utilize technology to prevent and track incidents of crime.

Leadership Structure

A key finding of the security assessments was the need to increase the level of expertise and coordination of safety issues at the highest levels of the University. As a result of the committee’s recommendations, we plan to create the position of Associate Vice President for Safety and Security. The new AVP will report to the Vice President for Community and Civic Affairs and will have responsibility for the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), which will continue to benefit from the excellent leadership of Rudy Nimocks, Chief of Police; the Office of Transportation and Parking; and a new department of physical security that will be responsible for setting and implementing standards for building access control and related technology across the University. A search will be launched immediately to fill this position.

The standing Committee on Crime Prevention and Security on Campus and in the Neighborhood, chaired by Dean Richard Rosengarten and made up of students, staff, and faculty, will continue to serve in an important advisory role.

Police Deployment and Staffing

It was also clear from these reviews and from comments we have heard from many in the community that we must increase the visibility of our police and security forces in the area around campus. We will be implementing a new deployment effort to achieve this increased visibility, including a greater use of foot and bicycle patrols. Over time we expect to increase the proportion of our campus police force that is staffed by full-time officers. In addition, we will be committing new resources to significantly increase our capacity for crime analysis and investigation.

Technology

The University will invest in proven technology to improve the physical safety of our environment. This includes the use of security cameras, which will continue to be installed in key outdoor locations in the coming weeks and months. We will further improve lighting on campus, and we will continue to work closely with the community and with elected officials to address lighting needs in the immediate surrounding areas. We will begin planning for a University-wide electronic security system that will allow for greater control over access to key buildings and areas. In addition, we will implement technology upgrades within UCPD, including updated computer dispatch and crime analysis software.

Transportation

We will establish a new shuttle bus system with regular, frequent service around campus; and we will develop a walking escort service for students, faculty, and staff who would like accompaniment to locations in and around campus after dark. It will be important to coordinate all of our late-night transportation services so the experience is as seamless as possible for students, staff, and faculty. We also will work with elected officials and community leaders to advocate for more bus service operated by the Chicago Transit Authority into Woodlawn.

Communication and Incident Reporting

Within the next few weeks we will expand our Community Safety website to include comprehensive daily reports of crime incidents reported to UCPD. The website also will include aggregate crime data, identification of trends, and safety education materials. At the same time, we also will fully implement new guidelines for emergency and crime notification.

Safety Education and Outreach

These changes represent a significant commitment of University resources to improve campus and community safety. However, we know that creating a safe environment will also require our continued engagement in many issues that broadly affect our community. We will continue to work in partnership with the City, local elected officials, and our neighbors to improve the quality of local schools, provide community residents with access to training and jobs, bring more amenities to the South Side, and understand how we can work together to prevent violence.

The actions described above will be part of an ongoing program of improvements to enhance safety and security. As these and new efforts are developed, we will post updates to our Community Safety website.

We welcome your thoughts about additional improvements that can be made to enhance the safety of our environment. Safety ideas and questions may be sent to communityaffairs@uchicago.edu.

Robert J. Zimmer
President