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New DPS chief should change safety priorities
Earlier this summer, Jay Gruber replaced Rocco DelMonaco as Georgetown’s newest Department of Public Safety chief. Gruber has been nationally recognized for his proficiency in emergency management and communication on college campuses, an accolade that can only benefit Georgetown. Erik Smulson, Vice President of Public Affairs, expressed his confidence and hope for the new DPS chief, and he’s not the only one—students can only hope that the new chief can change DPS’s skewed priorities.
According to its website, “DPS works closely with the Metropolitan Police Department and District of Columbia Fire Department to prevent and deter crime on campus and in the surrounding communities and respond quickly to incidents that may arise.”
Despite this declaration, DPS spends a significant amount of its time and energy monitoring parties and and busting those involving underage drinking or marijuana use. While student safety is important, focusing campus police efforts so heavily on breaking up rowdy parties doesn’t help prevent sexual assault and robberies—two issues of which students are constantly reminded by the influx of Public Safety Alert emails in our inboxes. Last September’s crime statistics included 42 incidences of theft, burglary, sexual assaults and threats, and alcohol and drug violations. Of these crimes, alcohol and drug violations are the least threatening to student safety.
Last spring, after a number of sexual assault incidences were reported within a short time span, DPS sent a dubious email suggesting that to prevent sexual assaults, women should simply refrain from walking alone at night. Rather than patrolling streets looking for college partiers, DPS should focus its energy on ensuring that all of its officers are trained to adequately respond to sexual assaults. According to Justice Department statistics, fewer than five percent of completed or attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement—far below the still-horrifying national average of 40 percent. Considering that one in four women are assaulted during their undergraduate career at Georgetown, this low reporting rate is appalling at best. As enforcers of the student code of conduct, Department of Public Safety should devote resources to investigating sexual assault allegations and preventing further assaults.
The 2010 Campus Plan filings make it clear that snuffing out off-campus parties is a priority for the administration, as a way to placate neighbors who groan about raucous late-night events. However, DPS policing should be in service of students, not the University.
Georgetown is a college campus. Naturally, there will be partying and underage drinking. But thefts and sexual assaults should not be commonplace. We, the student body, urge Gruber to reevaluate the priorities of DPS in recent years, and work more toward protecting students’ safety.