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Letter to the ODU Community from President Broderick

Dear ODU Community:

On June 24, two Old Dominion University administrators and our Police Chief talked at length with a reporter from The Virginian-Pilot for a story on the complex issues surrounding safety in off-campus neighborhoods.

The conversation was a good one and it brought to light the need to perhaps further clarify some of those challenges and opportunities directly with the campus community. Additionally, as a result of feedback from students, parents, faculty and staff, I'd want to provide some specific details of the additional security measures the university has put into place.

As you know, many of our students live in the Lambert's Point, Highland Park and Larchmont neighborhoods. While the university does not have control over the implementation of certain security measures and enhancements in these areas - like lighting, video surveillance and code enforcement, as examples - it does work with the City of Norfolk, neighborhood civic leagues, residents and students to encourage implementation and to identify additional solutions.

Since these communities include owner-occupied households and non-ODU renters, as well as students, solutions to crime must consider and have the cooperation of all stakeholders.

The university organized a safety task force several years ago that continues to meet every other month and includes university officials, Norfolk and ODU police, city leadership, students, civic league presidents and landlords. This group reviews on- and off-campus crime statistics and discusses and recommends appropriate interventions and other responses. Recent efforts include successfully promoting expanded Neighborhood Watch efforts, launching joint university/neighborhood crime prevention programs such as "Lock It Up, Light It Up," and focusing more code enforcement efforts in the neighborhoods.

As a result of the recommendations of the task force, the university has offered to financially support additional code enforcement personnel for this area. Many studies show that unkempt areas, overgrown bushes and shrubs, and other such code infractions make neighborhoods more likely targets for criminal activity.

ODU shares a concurrent jurisdiction with Norfolk Police that encompasses roughly one mile around the campus. Both departments' chiefs talk weekly, as do investigators and officers, to share information and refine strategies based on new data and always-evolving issues. While Norfolk is the primary responder to calls for service in these neighborhoods, ODU police often respond as well, since they have access to the Norfolk communications system and Norfolk dispatchers contact ODU dispatchers in certain cases. Both police departments patrol the neighborhoods.

The university has also proposed a joint policing facility adjacent to campus that would house both ODU and Norfolk police personnel. Initial planning on the design and discussions of cost sharing and overall feasibility are underway. The City has allocated $300,000 to move this planning forward. ODU has incorporated $7,821,000 in its recent capital request to the Commonwealth for this project as a high priority.

Over the past year and heading into our next fiscal year, the university will have spent nearly $2 million on additional physical improvements and personnel to address safety issues.

Specifically:

• Personnel

• This spring, we implemented a "power shift" where additional officers are on patrol during the hours of peak student activity - Wednesday through Saturday, 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. - and specifically in the adjoining neighborhoods.

• We are hiring four additional officers and one sergeant to staff this shift.

• Over the course of the year, we spent an additional $300,000 in overtime hours for specific initiatives such as the power shift.

• Video Surveillance

• Installed 214 additional video surveillance cameras in the following areas: University Village Apartments, Engineering & Computational Sciences Building, Dragas Hall, Whitehurst Hall and Library parking lots, Foreman Field area, and Tennis Center.

• Installed a new video surveillance management system.

• Contracting with a national video surveillance security consultant to review our current operations, recommend enhancements and create a comprehensive plan for further expansion.

• Lighting

• Added lighting to the following areas:

 between Gornto and Batten Arts and Letters building on the west side of Lot 30

 behind the baseball stadium

 between Diehn Fine Arts Building and Webb Center

 on the walkway between Garage A and the sciences building

 around the Chemistry, Planetarium, and Mills Godwin buildings.

• Bay Electric conducted a lighting levels survey for the entire campus, including garages, parking lots and sidewalks. Recommendations in addition to the improvements we've already made will follow and we will implement them in the coming months.

• We are completing the painting of the parking garages, which works with the existing lighting to further brighten and illuminate the spaces. Beginning this fall, Parking and Transportation Services will also be placing personnel in the garages.

• Emergency Blue Light Phones

• Installed 6 new Blue Tower emergency phones at the following locations: Rogers East, Gresham, Tennis Center, Library and two at Nusbaum Apartments.

• Installed a new system that automatically checks each emergency phone nightly to ensure they are properly functioning.

• Upgrading 59 existing emergency phones.

Additionally, we expanded our efforts in communicating crime prevention tactics and awareness to students in particular, by holding monthly safety forums and creating a safety video that will be required viewing for all incoming freshmen and available to all students. These newest efforts complement our ongoing initiatives such as our community police officers who work with student organizations, residence halls programming, self-defense classes, and Patrol Aide program.

We will continue to monitor and improve the Shuttle, Safe Ride and Escort services to students, faculty and staff to travel safely around campus and to Lambert's Point, Highland Park and Larchmont. After conducting ridership studies on the shuttles and Safe Ride, the university has revamped the routes of the shuttle service to focus primarily on on-campus travel. This decreases the wait time for the shuttles - to about 6-10 minutes depending upon the time of day - and increases the availability of the Safe Ride program to focus on off-campus service. In an average week during the school year, more than 800 riders take advantage of the Safe Ride service!

As you can see, a lot has been done to address safety concerns; but our work is not over. Safety is a continually evolving and changing issue and, as such, the university and all its partners must be vigilant and adapting in our efforts. It is crucial that all stakeholders - ODU, Norfolk, students, parents, faculty/staff and community members - take part in the ongoing discussion and be a part of the solution.

In closing, I call on Mayor Fraim, city officials, civic league leadership and our students - both on and off campus - to elevate their collective commitment in working with us to develop additional solutions. I encourage and welcome ideas and suggestions from anyone and everyone.

Sincerely,

John R. Broderick

President

This article was posted on: June 21, 2011

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114
http://www.odu.edu/news

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.