Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DPS chief heads inaugural public meeting to build communication

The Department of Public Safety's staff room doors were thrown open to the public this week to encourage conversation between campus police and the community.

In welcoming the public to the department's regular Tuesday morning meeting, U-M Chief of Police Greg O'Dell announced this would be the first of several open staff meetings to be presented around campus.

  U-M Police Chief Greg O'Dell says the Department of Public Safety will conduct regular meetings with the community. The first such meeting took place Tuesday. (Photo by Eric Bronson, U-M Photo Services)

"We want to begin having more dialogue with the community. What we do is sometimes a mystery to the public. We want to show what we do," O'Dell said. "We're trying to see what's going on, determine what are the trends. We want to deploy officers in those areas."

O'Dell reported that overall crime is down 30 percent this year. "I'm really happy with things in the big picture," he said.

That said, the crowd of about 40 people learned police are concerned about an increase in laptop thefts. Between Oct. 17-Nov. 20, 19 computers were stolen from Hatcher and Shapiro libraries, the Chemistry Building, the Duderstadt Center and other spots.

Most stolen laptops had been left unattended. O'Dell said that while police patrol study areas to prevent possible thefts, "We can't be at every table in the library." Lt. Melissa Overton, head of the criminal investigation unit, added that police also are conducting decoy operations to catch thieves.

"Laptop owners have to understand they always have to secure their laptops, even when they get up to get something to eat. They can be taken so quickly," O'Dell said.

DPS is trying to increase awareness through a poster campaign, and by officers leaving cards at unattended laptops, to remind owners to secure them, he said.

In other current crime trends, police reported that $1,600 in textbooks had been stolen since Oct. 31 from secured lockers in Hutchins Hall. Officers said the thieves likely used a shim device to unlock lockers. Police said some older-model cars are popular theft targets for their parts, adding that two older Mazda Proteges and two Honda Accords were stolen Friday through Monday.

In other reports, night shift Sgt. Stacy Richmond reported that in the past week there were 18 citations for minors in possession of alcohol, one drunken-driving arrest and one marijuana possession arrest. He reported that police are seeing increased marijuana use in housing units. In hopes of gathering more information about crime suspects for whom warrants have been issued, O'Dell said police are considering posting photos and descriptions on the DPS website at

Members of the campus community in attendance said they favored the public meeting initiative.

"I found it very useful to find out how involved campus police are with investigating laptop thefts, sexual assaults and other crimes, and how they create a presence when they see a pattern of crime evolving. They're a thoroughly professional outfit," said Herb Loner, LSA associate director of advising technology.

"I think it was useful," added Emily Greenberg, a public health graduate student from Cincinnati, Ohio. "I wish they would talk more about crimes occurring off campus. There needs to be more awareness. It's hard for students to seek that out," she said. "I'm happy there is communication and that they're opening meetings to the public.

O'Dell said earlier in the program that campus and Ann Arbor police must work well together.

"We monitor each other's radio traffic. Detectives from both departments meet with each other, our administrators meet with their administration," he said. "If you call 911 we're going to get you to the right agency. It's important to know we work closely together."

Police encouraged the campus community to secure belongings over the holiday break and to lock desks, offices and labs when appropriate.