UHPD hires security officers in effort to increase campus security
In a response by the UH administration to a multitude of complaints from the student body about a lack of security presence on campus, nine new security officers will be patrolling the UH campus soon.
‘The students brought it to the forefront,’ UH Police Department Chief Malcolm Davis said. ‘But in 20 some-odd years, UHPD has only gained one position, while the student body has nearly doubled in that time, so we are trying to play catch-up.’
Davis said he had been requesting additional officers since a three-week period over the summer when there was one robbery each week.
Currently, the 45 total UHPD officers on campus translates to one officer for approximately every 1,000 students. Fourty additional security officers aid the UHPD officers by responding to non-criminal matters, such as when students need campus escorts or when an elevator malfunctions.
‘The new security officers can handle that stuff,’ Davis said. ‘It gives the police officers more time to perform police officer duties, but we still provide the basic services that are expected, like patrolling campus and responding to crimes.’
Six of the new officers will be relegated to patrolling the Energy Research Park.
‘I wanted to absorb the private security because I want them doing the things that we want them to do, not what somebody else wants them to,’ Davis said.
Still, the other three officers are expected to have a visible presence on campus.
‘They are assigned to the campus; they’re not assigned to an individual building,’ Davis said. ‘Right now they are on foot and (use) a modified golf cart.’
The officers will be operating on two separate shifts, the first running from 3 to 11:30 a.m. and the second lasting from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. They will be expected to respond to any call or minor emergency that normally would have been a UHPD officer’s job.
‘It provides an added advantage, because we have some students (who) don’t like talking to cops,’ Davis said. ‘This gives them somebody else who obviously represents DPS, but is not a police officer, so maybe they will talk to him or her and then give us the information.’
Davis’ advises students to stay’ in close proximity to an officer.
‘If you have a concern, we want you to be able to see us,’ Davis said. ‘We don’t care who you report to.’
The added security may be enough to put the perception of UH being dangerous at night to rest.
‘People should start seeing the police officers more, because we want a higher visibility,’ Davis said. ‘When you see police officers when you’re coming in, you say ‘The cops are out here, I feel pretty good.”
UHPD is looking to hire more officers, but it will need a specific reason for their presence.
‘I am requesting some additional police officers through the blue ribbon task force and some additional security officers,’ Davis said. ‘But it has to be something where I can justify their use; you can’t just plan for the worst-case scenario.’
The problem is that campus crime at UH is inconsistent.
‘Some days there’s nothing going on, and the officers are stumbling over themselves looking for something to do,’ Davis said. ‘Other days it’s feeding time at the zoo, and we could use 10 times the people we have.’
For UHPD, success will be measured by its ability to adjust and find a level of security that everyone can agree on.
‘The world is more violent for (students today) than it was for me growing up,’ Davis said. ‘The world has changed, and this is how we respond to that change.’