Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, August 12, 2011

Supervisor safety sessions add more eyes, ears in community

Several hundred staff members soon could become extra eyes and ears for the police, and help co-workers be more diligent about safety in response to recent sexual assaults near campus.

Many staff members are “on the job” each night across campus after the majority of offices have closed and classes have ended. In addition to their traditional responsibilities these custodians, bus drivers, grounds workers, maintenance staff, researchers, library assistants, health service providers and restaurant staff can serve as helpful contributors to campus safety.

A new U-M website offers suggestions on how to stay safe on campus.

Interim Police Chief Joe Piersante acknowledges the important role U-M staff members have in campus safety.

“There are a tremendous number of employees throughout our buildings and grounds at all hours of the night. By reminding these staff members of what to look for, we’re hopeful we’ll have more people acting on their instincts to get police called when they observe something suspicious. Police can’t be everywhere, so these additional eyes and ears across campus can help us apprehend more suspects and help keep our campus safer. It is a true partnership,” Piersante says.

University police officers have been meeting with supervisors to discuss how staff can be those extra eyes and ears, and how they can pass important safety information along to those they supervise. The officers, members of a Department of Public Safety unit titled Team Community Oriented Policing, also have made presentations at each new student and parent orientation session throughout the summer to share safety messages.

“We’re raising awareness of suspicious behavior,” says Officer Theo Chalogianis. “We’re also imploring staff to contact police promptly if they see suspicious behavior, stressing that each person should have an advanced plan in case they encounter some danger and talking about some basic safety tips.”

The officers recently met in four sessions with supervisors from Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) as well as maintenance, grounds and plant building services within Plant Operations.

Bitsy Lamb, manager of PTS transit services, thought the sessions were helpful. “The dialogue with the officer was good. We brainstormed additional actions our supervisors and drivers can take to help our community. Our drivers see various conditions as we drive around throughout the day and night. It is a good reminder that we need to remain vigilant.”

Some of the activities the officers encourage staff members to report are:

• People who are acting out of place from what other people are doing in that area.

• Packages that are left unattended.

• Vehicles that are driving slowly with occupants scanning the area.

• People sitting in parked vehicles for prolonged periods of time.

• People entering areas that are restricted, isolated or closed for the day.

Chalogianis also provided supervisors with personal safety suggestions for their staffs. “We encourage staff members to have the DPS phone number (734-763-1131) programmed in their cell phones so they can call directly, maintain radio contact with fellow employees especially if they are moving to a different building or work area, know locations of Emergency Blue Light phones in case their cell phone fails, and always have a plan of escape so you quickly can get away.”

While there have not been any additional reports of sexual assault since July 26 (as of this deadline), police encourage community members to remain vigilant to all types of suspicious behavior and report it immediately to police.

“Help us help you to stay safe,” Piersante says.