Violent crime incidents on College Hill increased by around 90 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, said Mark Porter, chief of police and director of public safety.
Burglary cases have almost doubled this year compared to last year, he said.
In response to the recent spikes, the Department of Public Safety has submitted a proposal to the University Resources Committee requesting funds to hire four new officers for the night shifts on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Porter said. He added that the new officers’ focuses would be on cell phone thefts and other street crimes.
If accepted by the URC, the recommendation will be submitted for verification by President Christina Paxson in January and the Corporation in February before it is worked into the budget next fall.
“For the sake of the safety of the students and all the people that work here, we always take a look at how we are trying to protect people,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, who heads the URC. The URC pays particular attention to how DPS is staffed and deployed, he said.
Crime rates are rising on urban campuses across the nation, Porter said. Deputy Chief of Police Paul Shanley added that the worrisome aspects of this rise are the increased prevalence of violence and the growing number of distinct individuals committing isolated crimes, as opposed to the same perpetrators repeating offenses.
The proposal comes toward the end of a substantial effort launched by DPS to combat the climbing crime rate, Porter said. This effort has included overtime hours for current officers and joint patrols with the Providence Police Department, he said.”We’ve really worked together to see what we can do to stem the tide for this street crime,” Shanley said.
These efforts have brought some success as DPS has apprehended a higher number of suspects, Porter said, but he added that the proposed new officer positions are necessary to adequately combat the rise in crime.
Because URC deliberations are currently in progress, Schlissel said he could not comment on the likelihood of the proposal’s acceptance, though he added that the rising crime rate is a major concern among administrators. The URC accepted a similar proposal in 2011 to increase the number of DPS officers in the Jewelry District around Alpert Medical School.
Though the number of officers would not increase until at least next fall, Schlissel said the proposal is time-sensitive because of the preparation new officers must undergo.
New hires need to attend the police academy before they can begin work on campus, Schlissel said. “That takes a little while, and that’s why we’re trying to get an early start on this,” he said.
Students responded positively to the idea of an increased number of officers on duty, but some added that they already feel safe on campus and have little interaction with DPS outside of using SafeRide and Safewalk.
“I think they’re great – I don’t have any complaints,” said Andrew White ’13. He said he felt as safe this year as in past years and has not noticed the climb in crime rate.
“In campus law enforcement, you always have to look at the trends and make sure you are tracking the crime,” Porter said. “And as the campus continues to expand, it’s going to be paramount that our level of safety and police activity meets that growth.”