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Safety at Mills Needs to be a Top Priority

Campus crime is on the rise across the country according to the
Department of Education’s report on crime statistics. That
knowledge almost makes the increase of campus crime here at Mills
bearable. Almost, that is, until we are faced with looking at why
there has been such an increase in the first place.

Naturally, it would be easy to blame Public Safety for this
growing problem, however, the problem is much larger than that. If
you look at the Mills Web site, the mission of Public Safety is to
“provide a safe environment in which college community members can
work, study and live.” The roles and responsibilities of the Public
Safety officer are to: control the flow of incoming and outgoing
traffic; secure buildings; patrol the campus and residential areas;
educate the campus community about crime prevention; establish and
maintain a good working relationship with local law enforcement and
emergency personnel; respond to lawful orders and requests given by
authorized college personnel and provide conflict resolution.

That’s a tall order for a staff of seven full-time and two
part-time officers who are required to provide campus security 24
hours a day. It would be virtually impossible for two officers to
control the flow of incoming traffic, secure all 72 buildings,
patrol the 13 campus and residential areas, educate the campus
community about crime prevention, not to mention the remainder of
their job responsibilities.

Let’s face it, Public Safety has been seriously under staffed
and lacking in leadership since the end of the spring semester,
when Steven King resigned, making it virtually impossible for them
to accomplish their mission, much less fulfill their roles and
responsibilities. This leaves us with no sense of security each
time we enter campus and pass an empty gate-house, or students feel
afraid to leave belongings unattended for even a second, or faculty
feel they must lock their desk drawers and offices just to make a
trip to the restroom. No, this problem does not solely belong to
the Public Safety department. The weight and bulk of this problem
falls squarely, and rightfully, on the shoulders of our

The Mills administration needs to get involved and make some
changes on campus so that the college can live up to the commitment
that was made in the marketing materials we received, either as a
prospective student or once you had been accepted. You remember
that don’t you? It stated, amongst other things, “24-hour security,
365 days per year at the gate.” It’s a far cry from that now, and
the empty security booth, as well as the increase in security
related problems all over campus, has not gone unnoticed. What
makes matters worse is no one wants to step up and take
responsibility for this problem. What has happened instead is The
Weekly staff have been given the brush off when trying to get some
straight answers for a story. Perhaps who ever gave the Public
Safety staff the directive to keep silent has forgotten they have a
first amendment right to answer questions for a reporter…or
anyone else for that matter!

We understand there hasn’t been a public safety director until
quite recently, but that is not an acceptable reason for the
complete neglect of a department that is supposed to ensure our on
campus safety. The officers are overworked and underpaid. Some show
no sense of caring about the students whatsoever-but maybe it’s
because some just aren’t willing to go out of their way because
they feel under appreciated. It is the Mills administration that is
responsible for the safety of the Mills community and therefore
needs to look at how the department is managed and how ineffective
they are as a result of being under staffed.

This is only part and parcel of the problem because even fully
staffed the Public Safety officers cannot be everywhere, all the
time. Perhaps the administration should begin looking into other
methods of protection such as installing card readers on certain
buildings or installing video cameras in common access points
around campus and residential areas. Or perhaps the new interim
director, Dan Brown has a few suggestions of his own. Whatever the
case the ultimate decision must be made by the administration and
we can only hope they will make the right decision that will help
us sleep (or study) safely at night.

In the meantime, it is also our responsibility as fellow
students to look out for one another. If you find something that
doesn’t belong to you, turn it in to Public Safety and post a note
in student news. If you see someone suspicious lurking around
campus, contact Public Safety immediately. And most of all, don’t
leave anything of value in your cars, dorm rooms or elsewhere
unlocked and visible to a passerby. We must all work together to
create a safer Mills environment.