On a college campus the size of some small towns, two sheriff’s deputies aided by 13 security officers and 11 cadets are committed to keeping the peace.
Half way through the semester, Pierce employees and students have already been exposed to a bookstore manager accused of embezzlement, a burglarized office, arrests and thefts.
“With the economy going down and people losing their jobs, it wouldn’t surprise me if [crime rates] go up,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Nohles.
During September there has been a 25 percent rise in thefts, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
“Petty thefts are crimes of opportunity,” said Nohles. “People leave cells, purses and wallets, and other people take them.”
Still, Nohles said he considers the campus safe.
“For the size we are, I think we’re one of the schools with the lowest crime rates.”
The 26 security personnel cannot cover every part of the campus at all times. For this reason, the school has developed the emergency blue phone system, a campus-wide access and emergency line meant to keep the safety of students and staff.
Commonly referred to as ‘blue lights,’ the phones are actually large blue poles with the word ’emergency’ printed on their sides, and a red button accompanied by the words ‘push for help’ in the center.
There are 21 blue phones spread throughout campus, which are available for students’ use around the clock.
The Sheriff’s Office receives at least one call from a blue phone on campus every couple of days, according to Nohles.
Even so, most of the calls are from lost students looking for directions and information.
“We get a lot of calls from people who don’t understand what the blue phones are for,” said Nohles.
Once the red button is pushed, the call is transferred directly to the Sheriff’s Office, where the operator is notified of the caller’s location.
Then, the sheriffs make sure that the caller is no longer in danger, make a report and start looking for the suspect reported.
“People usually come up to the Sheriff’s office to complain about crime, they don’t know that it’s much easier to just push the [red] button,” said Nohles.
Do we feel safe here?
The sheriffs and cadets take different roles to ensure our safety.
While cadets enforce parking laws and issue parking tickets, the sheriffs are called when a vehicle burglary or vandalism take place.
Cadets lock and unlock doors, help out at the Sheriff’s office and escort disabled students.
Sheriffs, however, search and chase after suspects, enforce criminal laws and pass on information to Los Angeles Police Department and other detectives when needed.
“We’re here to keep the staff and students safe,” said Nohles.
The campus’ sheriffs and cadets makes some students safe.
“There’s always someone to help you at the Sheriff’s office,” said Danielle Dagan, Pierce student. “The cadets are always around campus, and, if you look, there’ll always be someone there to ask for help.
Some students, however, feel that the sheriff’s department’s work is lacking.
Cameras entail more than man power
Hidden cameras are not a part of campus security.
They are not monitored around the clock, but only when deputies or security officers find the time to look at them, according to Nohles.
“People are programmed to know that everywhere they go they are on camera,” said Nohles.
Although visible security cameras are common, there are several parts of campus that entirely lack them, according to Nohles
While buildings such as the Library, Child Development Center and village rooms are equipped with more than 35 security cameras, the Student Services Building, the Mall and parking lots are missing them.
“It’d be nice to have more security cameras,” said Nohles. “But the more security cameras on campus, the more man power it would take to monitor them.”
Safety Tips provided by LASD’s Personal Safety Tips
* Never walk alone in a parking lot.
*Always try to travel in areas that are well lit and provide high visibility.
*Do not take short cuts through poorly lit areas.
*Remain extra alert when walking by yourself.
*Make eye contact with those around you.
*Never accept ride from strangers.
*Lock your can and make sure all windows are up.
*If you suspect you are being followed, go to the nearest populated area, find the closest blue phone or enter the Sheriff’s Office.