Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An interview with Interim Police Chief Piersante about campus safety

Editor’s note: Recently there have been several serious assaults reported near the U-M campus. The following is an interview with Interim U-M Police Chief Joe Piersante about campus safety.

What is the Department of Public Safety’s strategy for combating the recent spike in street attacks?

Piersante: The recent reported assaults are very disturbing for all of us and we are taking action in a number of ways:

• Increasing police on Central Campus during the late evening and early morning hours to both prevent and detect crime.

• Adding more patrols to the Central Campus. Ann Arbor Police are doing the same.

• Assigning extra detectives to work with Ann Arbor Police to help investigate each of these off-campus incidents.

• Working even more closely with Ann Arbor Police and the Health System security team, including more regular information-sharing.

• Continuing to share crime prevention tips with the community through the media, crime alerts and the DPS website.

• Continuing to maintain our Emergency Blue Light phone system, including installation of phones around our newly constructed buildings.

The Emergency Blue Light system is an extensive emergency phone system in parking structures and throughout campus grounds. Even though most students have cell phones, the emergency phone system is available in case a student loses his or her phone or the battery dies. When someone lifts the receiver at an Emergency phone or pushes the button, it rings directly into DPS. Even if no one speaks on the other end of the line, DPS will send an officer to that location to be sure no one needs help.

Is this a university issue or an Ann Arbor Police Department issue?

Piersante: When it comes to keeping our community safe, we don’t distinguish between the two. We work as partners with the AAPD and attempt to seamlessly provide the services our community members need.

What can an individual do to help stay safe?

Piersante: Always follow strong crime prevention techniques:

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times. (Don’t wear earphones or talk on the phone when walking, for example.)

• Walk with a trusted friend whenever possible.

• Reduce vulnerability by monitoring alcohol intake.

• Attempt to walk in well-lit, high-traffic areas.

• Keep apartment and car doors locked.

• Consider late-night transportation options, including taxi services. There are several options including a service that provides transportation from central or north campus. Search “night transportation options” from the U-M Gateway.

• Immediately report suspicious behavior to police. Police would rather respond to something that turns out to be OK than be called after suspects have fled the area.

• For students and staff of the university, sign up for UM Emergency Alert. The system sends a text and voice mail to your phone and email if there is an urgent situation. You can sign up through Wolverine Access.