Security is increased on College Park campus 5 more officers, cameras, gatehouse added in wake of attacks last spring

September 16, 1998|By Melissa Corley | Melissa Corley,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland students and faculty returned to what police hope is a safer campus this fall after several attacks on students last spring.

Five officers have joined the University Police Department, bringing the number of officers to 70. New security cameras are perched atop some emergency phones, and officials constructed a third gatehouse at the campus' south entrance.

Last spring, three female students reported being attacked on campus. One of those students claimed she was raped and another said her attacker tried to kidnap her, police said.

One case has been closed at the request of the victim, according to Sgt. Steve Kowa, a spokesman for University Police. No arrests have been made.

Officials are encouraging students to take advantage of such long-standing services as the campus shuttle and walking escorts when they are alone after dark.

Mary-Ellen Devitt, 29, uses the walking escorts when she is on campus by herself at night. "It's a regular practice," said Devitt, a faculty research assistant in the College of Agriculture. "There was just a lot of crime activity last year that made me really nervous, and [the walking escorts are] always really prompt."

Devitt said she used the escorts before last spring's attacks. "I kind of promised my mother that I would," she said. "I want to be able to stay late at work as long as I want, and having the escort service allows me to do that."

The new gatehouse, which was planned before last spring's attacks, provides another opportunity for campus security to check cars entering the campus between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

There also are gates at the campus' University Boulevard entrance at Stadium Drive and at the main entrance at Campus Drive and U.S. 1. All other entrances to the campus are closed between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

In addition to security cameras already in place, new cameras have been added to blue security phones on campus, from which students in distress can summon police.

Police also plan to step up patrols on campus grounds and within classroom buildings. "We believe that is one of the best ways for establishing and maintaining a partnership with the community," Kowa said.

He said the police department is sending information to all students, faculty and staff members to alert them to possible dangers.

Commuter students, who often must park far from their classes, also are concerned for their safety. "It's a long walk," said junior finance major Awele Iwugo, 20, of the distance between her Thursday evening class and her car on the other side of campus. "You don't know what's around you -- who's in front of you, who's behind you."

There is special concern for students being housed temporarily in off-campus hotels because of a housing shortage on campus. Campus police do not have jurisdiction over the Best Western Maryland Inn and Quality Inn and Suites where the students are staying on U.S. 1. But, he said, campus police will offer escorts for students living in the hotels.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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