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Public Safety responds to concerns over Mills security

In response to a recent rape on campus, Public Safety is undertaking new measures to enhance campus security.

Last December, a graduate student was raped after responding to a job advertisement on Craigslist, when the suspect appeared at her on-campus residence. The incident has sparked discussion amongst students, staff and faculty on campus safety, and a campus forum will be held on the issue Feb. 7.

According to Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez, all visitors entering the campus after 8 p.m. who do not show a Mills parking permit are stopped and have their identification information and license plate numbers copied. Pedestrians are also stopped. Visitors who refuse to show identification are turned away, said Lopez.

Checking visitor identification during the daytime is currently not a possibility, said Lopez, due to parents going to and from the children’s school as well as the Julia Morgan School for Girls and visitors using the pool, post office, fitness center, etc. Yet Lopez said he is currently experimenting with checking identification on weekends, although Saturday events may make this difficult.

Lopez also said he has plans to set up a system where, after a certain time of night, Public Safety will phone students to confirm a visitor is welcome.

Assistant online editor of The Weekly, sophomore Jacquelyn Kennedy, started a group last December on the popular online networking site Facebook to serve as a place for students to discuss and suggest new safety measures on campus. There are currently 103 members.

One suggestion was increased lighting.

Adjusting the amount of lighting on campus “is a simple start to a big solution,” said Danielle Brown, telemarketing manager of the Annual Fund, who participated in the Facebook group. She also advocated “more responsibility” for the front gate staff in being vigilant about checking identification and stopping unknown visitors.

“However, I think it’s important that everyone is as proactive as they can be,” she added, stressing that people should take steps to prevent problems as much as possible. “Sometimes it’s out of your control, but it’s also important that you take a little control.”

ASMC has been discussing numerous initiatives, such as improved lighting, a student-run shuttle/escort service, and emergency telephones, commonly known as “blue light phones” because they are designated by blue strobe lights. They connect a student to campus police or public safety with the push of a large HELP button and have been installed on many college campuses nationwide, including UC Berkeley.

“We believe that these phones are very, very good tools,” said Sergeant Alex Yao of the UC Berkeley campus police crime prevention unit. “They provide the means for people to immediately access the emergency line if they are in need of help.”

With the UC Berkeley “code blue” phones, pushing the button tells the police where the call was made via a computer-aided dispatch, said Yao. Some emergency phones even have a security camera on top.

“It’s ridiculous to me that we don’t have them,” said junior Tricia Holden, ASMC women’s resource chair, in a telephone interview. The administration has objected to the installation of emergency phones in previous years citing cost issues, said Holden. “But what is the cost of having a woman violated?”

According to Ken Vogel, the manufacturer representative for Code Blue, who provides UC Berkeley’s emergency phones, a basic wall-mounted unit will cost $1,500-$2,000, depending on whether or not the phone will use existing phone lines.

A tall pedestal unit, made for outdoor spaces where there are no buildings, would cost an estimated $4,200, more if it will be powered by solar energy. This figure does not include the cost of installation.

Solar energy is usually less expensive than trenching to reach a power conduit, particularly if the pedestal is meant to stand in an isolated location.

“They’re not cheap,” said Vogel on the telephone. However, he said, they will last for years.

The emergency phones manufactured by GAI-Tronics cost even less than that. Andrew Skinner, a sales representative for GAI-Tronics, gave a price for each wall-mounted unit as $500-$600, with free-standing stanchions at $2,800 each.

Another suggestion was an “unwanted visitors” list against which IDs can be checked.

“I would have to look into that further,” said Lopez. “People change their minds, and keeping a list like that current is really time consuming.” He said he would have to check the legal ramifications with the college attorney.

A campus safety forum will occur on Feb. 7 from 5-6 p.m. in Stern 100. According to Renee Jadushlever, Vice President of Information Resources, three main topics will be discussed: what the college is doing about campus safety improvements, safety in an online environment and a sexual assault team headed by Dean of Students Joanna Iwata. President Janet Holmgren will also be in attendance, along with other college officers.

Plans to improve safety will be discussed at the forum. Jadushlever said they plan to offer self-defense classes and expand digital surveillance at the front gate. Iwata mentioned that Assistant Vice President of Business Affairs for Housing Management and Dining Services Karen Maggio spoke of bringing in lighting consultants to improve the lighting on campus.

“It’s important for students to know that we do have a sexual assault team,” said Iwata. Jadushlever said that part of the purpose of this forum is to “explain to the students what resources are available.”