When over 15,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff make their way to Northern Kentucky University on a daily basis, they are putting their safety into the hands of a staff of 24 people that make up the NKU Police Department.
These people work 12-hour shifts patrolling the campus, looking for crime, helping students and building relations throughout the community.
Recent events, such as the incident in Steely Library and the appointment of a new Chief of Police, have led to changes throughout the department.
Just after the school year began at NKU, a big push by newly instated Chief of Police Leslie Kachurek, was for his officers to be more present on campus through walking patrols.
According to Kachurek, these patrols require officers to go through campus on foot a minimum of three times a shift for at at least 20 minutes each time. Officers are limited though in how far they can go into campus because they have to have the ability to get back to their car in a timely manner in case of an emergency.
“We’ve had very positive response from our stakeholders on that,” Kachurek said. “It’s really an insufficient pool of data right now to determine whether or not we are actually reducing crime.”
Sergeant Raymond Haley said that the walking patrols have a variety of purposes, from looking for things out of place to water leaks or unlocking doors for weekend programs.
“It’s something that I think there are innumerable benefits of. First and foremost, you get into places that a vehicle won’t get into,” Kachurek said. “I also think that the most significant benefit is that we get to know our constituents, they get to know us.”
In addition to establishing relationships with students, Kachurek said that the history of walking patrols at other universities are effective in crime reduction.
He said that less than a week after walking patrols were implemented throughout the staff, there was a student they were searching for and knew that the police were doing so. Therefore, the student had stopped going to classes. However, the walking patrols lead to the apprehension of the suspect inside of Starbucks in the Student Union, a place that their vehicles can’t take them.
“We walk around the plaza,” Haley said. “We want to make sure everyone sees us, we want everyone to feel safe. We want everyone to know that we’re here.”
While walking patrols are relatively new to university police officers, vehicular patrol is a traditional method of campus surveillance.
But Kachurek said there is nothing conventional about vehicular patrol.
The NKU Police Department currently has 11 vehicles they use for patrolling.
They range from Crown Victorias to Dodge Chargers.
“The main thing with vehicular patrol is to stagger your patrol, so you can’t get into a routine,” Kachurek said. “So if you’re covering a particular area, you never come out of roll call and always go left, because people with sinister intentions watch this. So every single shift you want to vary your routine.”
Although the police department has 10 vehicles, Kachurek said that they are in need of an upgrade.
They are also looking into the possibility of getting segways, according to Kachurek.
WHAT THEY LOOK FOR
Kachurek said that an important aspect of patrol is being attentive to any given situation.
“It’s not just what you see, it’s basing it on all of your senses, it’s what you hear, what you smell, do you smell smoke, do you smell marijuana, do you hear someone yell for help or stop, or something of that nature,” Kachurek said. “So it’s all a matter of engaging as many senses as possible.”
He said that while officers must be aware of the situation, there are also small, specific things that they pay attention to.
“There are a myriad of things that you look for,” Kachurek said. “If you’re looking for motor vehicle issues, often times things like the headlights being off at night, but the interior dome light being on would give an officer reasonable suspicion to stop that vehicle.”
Haley said that some of the things they watch for, especially when patrolling the Residential Village is the use of illegal substances, such as alcohol and marijuana.
“We will wander around through residence halls occasionally, just so we can be seen,” Haley said. “We don’t go to often into the residence halls because I kind of equate it, you know the residents hall is your home. So I don’t think that you’d want to see a policeman every time you stepped out the front door of your home every time you walked out the front door.”
There are approximately 200 security cameras across campus.
Jeff Baker, safety coordinator of environmental safety and compliance, said that every residence facility is equipped with security cameras, as well as high traffic areas on campus. In addition, some departments request security cameras for protection of property.
He also said that all three parking garages are monitored via security cameras, but that the university’s parking lots are not.
“That’s something we have been working on for a while,” Baker said. “The problem is you can put a camera out to see a whole lot, but if you want to look at the entire lot, it’s kind of hard to see someone that is doing some kind of criminal activity.”
ROLE IN A LOCKDOWN
While Kachurek hasn’t had to handle a lockdown situation at NKU, he says the role of university police in a lockdown would be situation specific.
“[If a threat were on campus] it would be perimeter control, it would be seeking out whatever the threat would be, it would be systematically evacuating if that were necessary,” Kachurek said. “It would be communicating what the threat is and communicating that it was clear once it was confirmed that it was clear.”
Kachurek added that they have to be “very judicious” in calling a situation all clear.
“Often times incidents, you can never assume that there is only one threat,” Kachurek said. “So there’s kind of a rule of thumb in policing, that if you encounter someone and you take a weapon from them, you start seeking that second weapon, because people who carry weapons illegally often carry more than one weapon.”
In the event of an incident on campus, Kachurek says that the NKU Police Department has established relationships with surrounding cities departments so that if the suspect manages to evade university police, then they have perimeters set up further out that will be able to assist.
When it comes to issuing a Norse Alert, Kachurek said that there’s a fine balance between acting too soon and too late.
“You want to communicate the information without causing unnecessary panic,” Kachurek said. “Then you also want to issue something that’s all clear or an amendment that it’s actually factual.”
While he does work to communicate with the Department of Finance and Administration, sometimes sending a Norse Alert is a decision that he has to make on his own, but added that it’s highly related to the level of the threat.
This type of situation recently happened when phone lines across campus, including the 67 Blue Boxes located across campus went out, and he made the decision to send out an alert to notify the campus community, according to Kachurek.
He said the use of Norse Alert is primarily used based on the immediacy and severity of an issue, such as weather related issues where President Geoffrey Mearns may make the decision to close campus.
A second type of alert system that the university uses is what Kachurek calls a timely warning.
“A timely warning is something that has already occurred and we want to get them information in a timely manner,” Kachurek said.
He added that these notifications will be used in a variety of instances that could potentially happen across campus, such as sexual assault, vandalism or theft. When they do, they will send out emails, post fliers, make phone calls, etc. to notify the appropriate group of people of the situation. At the end of all notifications, they add suggestions for how to prevent similar events from happening in the future.
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