It’s a new twist to an old program that The University of New Mexico hopes will provide an overall safer campus atmosphere utilizing a community policing initiative. UNM’s latest campus safety prevention effort is called Campus Watch, and is modeled after the Neighborhood Watch initiative created in the early 1970s by the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Neighborhood Watch is one of the oldest and best-known crime prevention initiatives in North America. The heightened awareness called for an initiative focused on residential areas involving local citizens through community policing. The program consists of a group of people living in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer by working together and in conjunction with local law enforcement to improve their quality of life. The Neighborhood Watch empowers citizens and communities to become active in emergency preparedness, as well as in the fight against crime and community disasters.
Similarly, UNM’s Campus Watch program is designed to utilize the same strategies in a slightly different way. As part of the program, UNM has broken down the campus into various zones that are overseen by building coordinators throughout main campus. The building coordinators serve as the conduit between the various areas, departments, schools and colleges on campus.
“Our newest initiative at the university is called Campus Watch and it’s modeled after the Neighborhood Watch program,” said UNM Police Department Detective and Campus Watch co-chair Tish Young. “We’ve divided the campus into zones and using our building coordinators as a way to communicate in those zones about crime and safety issues.
“As part of the initiative, we’re establishing communication through our building coordinators in each zone so they are communicating any safety issues or concerns they are hearing, while the police are sharing reports of any crimes in those areas so the building coordinators can be aware of what is happening on the police end.”
“We are a community within a community in Albuquerque, and it’s important that we all protect the Pack. Sometimes people will see something and think it’s not important, but it can be very important, so we’re asking everybody from students to faculty to staff to participate." – Senior Student Success Specialist and Campus Watch co-chair Rodney Bowe
Twenty-three zones have been established across campus overseen by the building coordinators. The building coordinators essentially serve as the eyes and ears in each particular zone raising safety issues and sharing any concerns to the occupants in the zones.
“We’re using the building coordinators as zone captains because they are already in charge of a building and they know the population in their area,” said Young. “We’re also connecting them with people they might not work with directly, such as custodians and groundskeepers, who might see different things during different times of the day.”
To help get the program started, Campus Watch officials initially sent out a questionnaire to all the building coordinators to see what safety concerns they might have for the fall semester and any concerns they had last spring. The information from the different zones will then be compiled and shared with each zone. If there’s a safety concern that affects the entire campus community, that information will be sent to all the zone captains. If it’s an issue or concern that pertains to a particular group, then that information will be shared that with that group so they can spread the word within their respective zones.
“Our building coordinator program is a system where each building has a designated contact who is responsible for sharing updates with the occupants of that building and informs the building coordinators who inform the occupants of the building,” said Facilities Management Public Information Representative and Campus Watch co-chair Maya Williams. “We use this system for maintenance, projects and outages for example. We’re piggybacking off that concept and using the building coordinators to help spread the word for the Campus Watch program to report concerns in and around buildings with appropriate resources.”
Campus Watch leaders plan to connect the zones through a monthly newsletter sharing information so each zone can see what’s going on in other zones. If there are similar issues in various zones, then officials can problem-solve on a broader level.
“The main thing is to build connections and awareness between the departments around safety concerns,” Williams said. “Certain things may not be a police issue but we can share that information with each other and keep an eye out for certain situations.”
UNM has been looking at implementing a concentrated community policing effort to help keep the campus community safer. Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies in support of the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate concerns that give rise to public safety issues. As implied, it’s up to the community to help make an impact.
“We are a community within a community in Albuquerque, and it’s important that we all protect the pack,” said Senior Student Success Specialist and Campus Watch co-chair Rodney Bowe. “Sometimes people will see something and think it’s not important but it can be very important, so we’re asking everybody from students to faculty to staff to participate. We’re still working on ways to get students more involved, but if they see something on campus, it’s really important to report it. They could be helping their fellow students by reporting it.
“It’s just like home,” added Bowe. “If something is happening everyone at home is going to say something so we’re expecting everyone on campus to do the same to make it a safer place. We’re simply asking everyone to protect the pack to help make our campus safer. We’re always trying to enhance our campus and make it better for everyone in the community.”
There will be information about the Campus Watch on the Campus Safety and UNM Police website with details about who to contact for each zone. However, Young noted the difference between issues and concerns regarding the initiative.
“If there is a crime that happened or is happening on campus call police,” said Young. “If it is a campus safety issue, and you don’t need to call police, that information should be reported to building coordinators.”
Anyone can participate in the Campus Watch program by calling UNM PD at 505.277.2241. Individuals can also go online and report anonymously. To report a concern or issue to the Campus Watch officials, email email@example.com.
For more information, visit UNM Campus Safety
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