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Friday, January 26, 2007

New technology, programs improve safety at UNCP

Displayed on a 42-inch flat screen LCD monitor at UNC Pembroke’s new Campus Police and Public Safety headquarters are 69 views from across campus.

Sergeant Stephen Brooks scans the closed circuit monitor.

Sergeant Stephen Brooks scans the closed circuit monitor.

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The big screen and closed circuit television cameras are emblematic of many changes taking place to improve campus safety at UNCP.

Over the holidays, the 16-member police force moved into their new offices. They added nine new cameras to the 60 already in place. Twenty were added in the summer of 2006.

“I’ve got to give credit to Chancellor (Allen C.) Meadors for this program,” UNCP Police Chief David Helton said. “He saw the need for closed circuit television, and he found the resources to make it happen.”

The new equipment was put to the test last fall following a reported theft of audio equipment. A review of video from the adjacent parking lot led officers to an arrest and recovery of equipment - on the same day.

“This and several other cases could not have been solved without the new technology,” Chief Helton said. “We have solved cases involving vandalism, larceny, damage to personal property and reckless driving.”

The face of campus safety continues to evolve with new developments including:

  • 16 “code blue” emergency telephones across campus.
  •  The first detective was hired to add investigative expertise and manpower.
  • The new 3,000 square-foot headquarters is three times the size of the old office.
  • And, campus police are becoming proactive with crime prevention, including a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program.

The RAD program, which includes a martial arts segment in padded suits, may be used for one hour of physical education credit for students.

In a demonstration, Counselor Ellen Gooch (left) fends off Detective Ed Locklear in a Rape Aggression Defense class.

In a demonstration, Counselor Ellen Gooch (left) fends off Detective Ed Locklear in a Rape Aggression Defense class.

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“We run the program with the Office of Counseling and Testing,” Chief Helton said. “We have five officers who are certified instructors and two counselors from the center.”

When he is not investigating crimes, Detective Ed Locklear is responsible for several prevention and education programs. These include drug and alcohol education, an engraving program for personal property loss prevention and information sessions with freshmen.

“This year for the first time, I taught a Freshman Seminar class, which is required for all freshmen,” Detective Locklear said. “I also visit all the Freshman Seminar classes to educate students on what campus police does for them.”

Detective Locklear, who is also past president of the Robeson County Law Enforcement Executive Officer’s Association, also solves crimes. Over the holiday, four lap top computers and a cell phone came up missing from two offices.

“We were able to recover two computers and arrest a juvenile,” he said. “We tracked the perpetrator through the phone calls he made. We got the phone back too.”

Proactive crime prevention is the biggest change in campus law enforcement, Chief Helton said. It’s a big job.

“We are like a city of 5,000 people that is set in a larger community,” he said. “There is a lot of activity here at all times of the day and night.”

For now, the police chief is pleased with the progress and the crime statistics.

“We produce an annual report every year, and we maintain accurate records,” Chief Helton said. “Comparing our performance to the other UNC system institutions, we are one of if not the safest campus.”

The changes and new technology keep coming. In early 2007, the department received two electronic traffic monitors.

“Everybody has seen these monitors beside the highway that tell you how fast you are traveling,” Chief Helton said. “The upgraded models deliver traffic counts by time period, flash safety or other messages and can take photos of violators.”

Next time you’re on campus, don’t forget to smile for the cameras.

For more information about law enforcement at UNCP, please call 910.521.6235. If it’s an emergency and the phone rings three times, the forth ring will forward the call to a patrolling officer.

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