By Claire Ballor
Twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, the blue Campus Safety patrol car circles the campus grounds, slowly and methodically, never letting a single parking lot go unchecked or a vehicle unnoticed. At 10 miles per hour, every building is scanned, every driveway checked and every jogger seen. While one officer is patrolling, others perform the routine duties of locking and unlocking classrooms, attending campus events and documenting reports while waiting to respond to others.
The University of Dallas office of Campus Safety team is thorough and efficient, but to anyone who knows this community, quietly nestled away from Dallas city lights and seemingly withstanding all time and change, it seems as though this campus would not need such in-depth security. I wanted to take a deeper look to understand why CSO does what it does. I figured the best way to find out was to see campus through the eyes of a CSO officer myself, and what better way to do this than to ride along in the patrol car?
As Battle of the Bands was winding down last Saturday night, I made my way over to the CSO office to sit in on the 1a.m. to 3 a.m. patrol shift. I was tired and starting to seriously regret my decision, but it was almost 1 a.m. on a Saturday. I knew this had to be prime time to see CSO in action.
Officer Tod usually takes this shift. While I am sure he thought I was strange for willingly spending my Saturday night this way, he let me tag along. We drove through every parking lot, past every building, over every hill. You would not think that driving at 10 miles per hour would make you carsick, but after only two laps my weak stomach was over it all. When I was ready to call it quits and forget it altogether, I looked over at Officer Tod, who selflessly drives this route every day several times a day for hours at a time. I pulled my sorry self together.
Almost an hour went by. Not a single call had come in and not a single suspicious person had walked by. The most we saw was a couple that wandered up to the lacrosse field to have what looked like a serious relationship-breaking talk. Officer Tod said this was typical.
The second hour of driving was just as uneventful as the first. I’ll admit, I was hoping for some urgent call to come in or at least a student asking to be let into his room, but nothing happened. Officer Tod said that he was not surprised that the night was turning out to be so slow. This was fairly typical.
If nothing was happening in the early hours of a Saturday on a college campus, what possibly happens to make the measures CSO takes necessary?
It was not until I met with Officer Charlie Steadman, the director of CSO, and sat with him at the CSO desk that it became clear why the officers do what they do and why they do it so faithfully. Steadman explained that CSO officers are not there to serve as police or defend the law. They are there to protect students from outsiders and from themselves when necessary.
Just this semester, CSO found a seemingly harmless but mentally ill man wandering around campus who had been missing from home for three days. CSO monitored the situation and officers were able to reunite him with his worried mother. Just last week a UD freshman girl came to TGIT extremely inebriated and passed out in the women’s bathroom. CSO responded in less than a minute and had medics there to assist her immediately.
These are the kinds of situations that CSO is always prepared to handle. They do not see themselves as campus police or disciplinarians. They are guardians.
Before 2003, CSO reported to the facilities department and was far less robust than it is now. At that time, there averaged three to four car thefts a year, most of which happened in broad daylight. When Steadman took over in 2003, the office began reporting to the administration directly. He implemented the 24/7 patrol car, and ever since there has not been a single car theft. Why? He explained that having a perpetual presence keeps intruders at bay.
What I experienced in the CSO car is not atypical, and that is a good thing. It is indicative of a community where danger is rare and violence even more so. That is not to say that we are a perfect community; the incident reports are evidence of that. But when looking at the spectrum of incidents in 2014 alone, it is clear that safety on this campus is not an issue.
Since Jan. 12, 107 incidents have been reported to CSO. Out of those 107 incidents, 10 were medical responses, seven were alcohol violations (more than one person may be involved in a single report), two were drug violations, one was sexual assault and 28 were either fire alarms or fire drills. Serious violations are rare here, and we have Campus Safety to thank for much of that.
By establishing a relationship with the community based on trust, the CSO officers have created a system in which they are able to perform their jobs efficiently without having to be disciplinarians. This relationship not only keeps the community safe, but it also contributes to the longevity of many of the CSO officer’s careers. The newest officer out of the staff of 10 has been here for three years. Steadman has been here for 18.
Steadman explained why he has been here so long despite the fact that he originally only planned to stay here for six months.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction in coming to work and dealing with intelligent, genuinely nice people,” he said. “I enjoy coming to work every day and I have for 18 years.”