A Message For Safety

Kristina Sanborn

Last semester, Glendale Community College security went high tech. The campus police department implemented an SMS text messaging alert system that would send students, faculty, and staff a text message to their cell phones in the event of an emergency. Short Message Service “SMS” is a communications protocol allowing the interchange of short text messages between mobile telephone devices.

Though it’s not quite like the fancy gadgets in the James Bond films, according to Blanca Collazo of the Glendale College Police Department, the SMS system is just one more step toward maintaining a safe campus environment. The SMS system, Collazo says, is, “a way to make them (students) aware. We had a power outage, so it’s good to let them know what’s going on, or if there’s an incident on the freeway so they can avoid it.” In these cases, those who had signed up for the alert would be notified with up to the minute information on what’s happening around campus. With this information, students and staff could make a more informed decision whether or not to approach the area.

With a growing student and faculty population, the need to increase security measures is vital in providing the community with a sense of safety. Since the assault of a faculty member by a former student last spring, the Glendale Police department has enlisted the services of more security personnel to patrol the campus grounds, stepped up awareness programs for crime prevention, and improved emergency call boxes and lighting throughout campus. They’ve also added the new emergency text messaging system to their arsenal. Collazo says, “We offer services such as these, patrolling the parking structures, we offer escorts late at night, and a lot of traffic enforcement because we are always getting people who speed through the area. We have a lot of cadets patrolling the campus, so there’s always an officer around.”

Though these improvements may offer a sense of safety to all those who enter Glendale College on a daily basis, it is still premature to assume that they will hinder criminal behavior. According to the crime statistic data offered to the public, the total number of crimes reported for 2006 including, but not limited to assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft, is lower than that of 2005, dropping from 13 to 8 incidents at the Glendale campus alone. However, from 2006 to 2007, the number of crimes reported increased from 8 to 14, slightly higher than what was reported in 2005. The data for 2008 is not available yet, and it remains to be seen if these numbers are affected by the new security measures that have been put in place. One comfort for some students and staff at Glendale College is that none of these statistics included heinous crimes such as hate crimes, murder, manslaughter, and all sex crimes. There were also no arrests for weapons laws violations in any of the three years.

Comparing crime statistics from nearby campuses, such as East Los Angeles College, the numbers are drastically different. In 2005 and 2006, there were 45 offenses documented at East Los Angeles College, a campus with 27,481 students, and 37 in 2007. Pasadena City College, which is a little closer to home, averaged lower than Glendale College, having 5 reports in 2005, 10 in 2006, and 8 in 2007. Pasadena City College, with 25,873 students, also offers the SMS text service. The student enrollment information, provided by the U.S. University Directory, http://www.stateuniversity.com/, reports GCC’s student population as 15,727. In other words, East L.A. is 43 percent larger than GCC, and Pasadena is 40 percent larger, yet Pasadena has less crime.

Though Pasadena’s crime statistics are generally lower, to Collazo, Glendale is still a pretty safe campus. “The numbers (for crime) are pretty low here,” she says. Like Glendale College, neither Pasadena City College nor East Los Angeles College had any reports of murder or manslaughter, but both campuses do have reports of forcible and non-forcible sex crimes. East Los Angeles College had 1 in 2007, and in comparison to Pasadena City College, had 2 in 2006 and 1 in 2007.

“I think it’s safe, I feel safe. There’s always cops driving around,” says Melisa Jusufi, a photography student who takes an evening class during the week. “And the SMS system definitely would prevent crime. If there’s a hostage situation, or something like that, you wouldn’t walk in, and you’d feel more safe,” she says.

Though the above numbers aren’t so alarming for some people such as Collazo, for others, they are still too high. Annemarie Bell, the mother of a Glendale College student, sill feels apprehensive about her daughter taking evening classes. “I still don’t like my daughter walking to her car in the dark, alone. You never know what could be waiting right around the corner. And a text message won’t save her if she’s already there. Yeah, it may be a safer area, but would you leave a $100 bill on your car seat and then leave the doors unlocked? I doubt it,” she says.

Even though the added improvements have provided some peace of mind, many students agree that security and campus surveillance could be stepped up a notch. “There could be more security across the lot,” says Jusufi. Like most of her female classmates, she says she feels uneasy about walking to her car in the parking structure at night after class. “Walking there at 10:30 at night, you don’t know what could happen, I mean, it’s a park,” she says. “They could also add more emergency call boxes.”

Security, however, does not only rest in the hands of campus police officers. To the Glendale Police Department, the campus population are their “eyes and ears,” and personal security is a matter of awareness. Callazo emphasizes for students and staff to “report anything suspicious, anything that might make you feel uncomfortable.” Their office is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They always have cadets patrolling the campus and surrounding areas such as the parking lots in an effort to prevent shady activity.

Although Glendale may seem like a safe neighborhood, the department stresses that you should not assume you won’t ever fall victim to a crime. Be alert and be prepared.

To sign up for the SMS text alerts, visit Glendale College’s website at www.glendale.edu and click on the link for the alert system. For more information on the Glendale College Police Department, you can also visit their website at www.glendale.edu/police/cleryact/. For crime statistics for any college campus across the nation, you can begin your search at http://www.ope.ed.gov/security/index.aspx.