Public Safety – keeping campus safe

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Angela Garrett, a police officer for the University of Central Missouri’s Department of Public Safety, files a report. (Photo by Garrett Fuller)

Written by Garrett Fuller

Almost everyone has seen their patrol cars. Some have seen them patrolling campus. And anyone who has purchased a parking permit has been to their office.
The University of Central Missouri’s Department of Public Safety is a crucial component to keeping campus safe. It includes police, parking services, access control and environmental health and safety. The police division is a fully-functioning department that serves the campus and the local community.
Sgt. Scott Lewis said the police division has 18 uniformed police officers that patrol campus and the surrounding area on foot, or by car or bike.
Lewis said Public Safety also has a continuously-manned dispatch center that has a text line and the Campus Eye app in addition to the standard telephone line. He said Public Safety also responds to 911 calls to dispatch the ambulance district and Warrensburg Fire Department.
He said their department has jurisdiction over the entire city of Warrensburg. Public Safety works with the Warrensburg Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff Department, Johnson County Ambulance District and Warrensburg Fire Department.
“We have a city reserve commission, so anywhere in the city limits of Warrensurg we have the same powers that (Warrensburg Police Department) have,” Lewis said. “We can arrest people, make car stops, serve warrants – anything we need to we can handle in the city limits of Warrensburg.”
Public Safety also has jurisdiction over other UCM property, including Pertle Springs, Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport and Prussing Farm.
The police division also handles investigations in-house. Dan Othic, captain of police operations, said the department has contacts with other agencies that can assist with information and clearing houses that can assist in crimes involving electronics.
Public Safety has other resources to assist in keeping campus safe. According to the department’s website, Echo, a German shepherd K9 unit, assists the department in narcotics searches, tracking missing people, structure searches and handler protection. Lewis said each officer is fully equipped with emergency equipment.
“We have AEDs and med bags in every single patrol car, fire extinguishers in there available so if we have to respond, we should have that equipment available,” Lewis said. “Ambulance and fire have a very quick response here also. A medical assist or fire, they can be here and assist us, too.”
Public safety also has methods for alerting the campus community of emergencies. TextCaster is a free service that automatically texts participants of emergencies and important information, such as when classes have been cancelled or delayed due to inclement weather. Buildings with updated fire alarm systems and sirens on campus have public address systems that allow dispatch to vocally announce emergencies and pertinent information.
Lewis said the Campus Eye app is a free app that allows students to submit maintenance issues or criminal activity by simply taking a picture and submitting it. The photos are automatically sent to Public Safety with location information so Public Safety can respond. The Campus Eye app can be downloaded from Android’s Play Store or the iOS App Store.
Lewis said there are some simple things the campus community can do to keep themselves safe and reduce crime.
“(People should) put their phones in their pocket when walking,” Lewis said. “(They should) actually be more aware of their surroundings, as most students are looking down at their cell phones, even when they’re crossing the streets.”
Lewis also suggested locking items and doors and making sure your car is locked and important belongings are in a secure location.
“The most common crime is an opportunity crime,” he said. “If someone leaves their car unlocked and someone is walking by, they can check the handle and steal stuff.”
Lewis also suggested reporting any suspicions activity.
“If they question ‘Should I call or should I not call,’ then the answer should always be ‘Yes, go ahead and call,'” Lewis said.
Visit their website for more information. Their dispatch center can be contacted at 660-543-4123 or via the text line by texting 660-422-2632.