Penn College Police increase off-campus patrols in response to city cr

Pennsylvania College of Technology students and faculty, returning to campus for the start of spring-semester classes, are learning that Penn College Police will double off-campus patrols in response to recent crimes in the city, including off-campus burglaries and shootings.

"We are very concerned about the safety of our students; the security of the places in which our students live, study and socialize; and the criminal intentions of some of the people with whom our students come in contact in the community," said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour.

Since Dec. 13, burglaries at 14 addresses in the immediate area of the college (some affecting off-campus student housing) were reported to Williamsport or Penn College Police. All of the apartments were entered while students were away on holiday break between semesters. Landlords have contacted students that live in the apartments where the burglaries were reported. Police report that mostly small, low-value items and cash were taken.

Unrelated to the burglaries, but of great concern, are five shootings that occurred in the city since Jan. 4. Shootings in four locations on Jan. 4 left one man dead and several injured. No one has been arrested in connection with these shootings. One man was arrested for a Jan. 7 shooting at Memorial Avenue and Walnut Street in which no one was injured.

Penn College officials are taking an unprecedented and comprehensive approach in notifying students and employees about the crimes occurring in the city, including some neighborhoods adjacent to campus. The president said a top priority, as the new semester begins, is making students aware of safety issues through meetings -- including one all students will be invited to attend next week -- as well as online and printed messages promoting personal protection, community safety and cooperation with Penn College Police.

Penn College Police will double off-campus patrols for the foreseeable future, she said. In addition to patrolling the campus, armed college police, for several years, also have patrolled surrounding neighborhoods. Foot patrols on the campus perimeter also will increase.

"Policing and protecting students is the responsibility of our police force," the president said. "Our officers cooperate with the Williamsport Bureau of Police, but I am convinced that it is necessary for Penn College Police to be a visible presence in the surrounding neighborhoods where many students live."

Her administration's message to students is to report any criminal activities or dangerous behaviors immediately to Penn College Police, who will continue to cooperate with city police.

"Our students are more comfortable talking to officers they know. Our officers are seen on campus and off campus on a daily basis. They are familiar, and they are respected. I want to encourage students to be part of the solution, and that means they need to work directly with our police force on all matters that concern them," she explained.

Penn College Police Chief Chris Miller said the college maintains strong, cooperative relationships with city police and will continue to work with local law enforcement to make the community safer.

"We are all public servants, obligated to protect and serve," the chief emphasized. "We all want what is best for our students and our citizens. Working together is our best hope for chasing criminals out of our neighborhoods."

Gilmour and Miller are among those who are addressing personal-protection and community-safety issues with students and employees returning to campus. Before the start of the semester, they are meeting with student leaders to share information on the recent crimes, stress the importance of being proactive in matters of safety and enlist their support in encouraging students to fully participate in safety-related activities.

"On campuses and in communities that are generally considered to be safe places, it is easy to become complacent," Gilmour said. "We need to remind students to think about what they are doing, where they are going and with whom they are associating at all times."

Her messages to students include this reminder: "You may be most vulnerable at times when you are not under supervision of parents, faculty and staff. That's when things happen, after dark, at the parties, when you think no one is looking. Your personal safety and the safety of the community can be threatened by your own actions. Know where you are and know with whom you are associating. Think about what you are doing."

The president also plans to address safety and protection issues with faculty and staff during an all-college meeting on Friday. She will ask faculty and staff to take a position of responsibility in sharing information with students and in providing support and assistance to help students in need.

"I want Penn College employees to continue to build relationships with students and community residents," Gilmour said. "We need to know our students. We need to know our neighbors. We need to know our campus and our neighborhoods. We all can help prevent crimes from happening if we make a visible effort to look out for one another."

In addition to increasing police patrols and communicating with students, parents and employees, Penn College plans to continue offering safety-awareness programs on campus and meeting with landlords and community representatives to discuss safety issues.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009