The Butler University Police Department (BUPD) ramped up their night patrols during the first two weekends of school.
The freshman class, the largest incoming class in Butler’s history, is part of the reason Chief of Police Ben Hunter said he thought a bigger task force was necessary.
“One of the things we wanted to do was have a good police presence on campus,” he said.
Assistant Chief of Police Andrew Ryan said that it’s important for freshmen to see a police presence during the first few weeks of school, when people are still settling in and adjusting to their new environments.
In order to have extra patrols during that time, additional funding was needed.
“We got the approval to fund more overtime in order to be out there and visible and present,” Ryan said.
Junior Grace Fisher said she thinks the extra security definitely had an impact on the campus.
“Honestly, it put a damper on Welcome Week, but I guess it’s good because it’s teaching freshmen that there are other things to do besides partying,” she said.
Even though some students thought the extra patrol hampered Welcome Week activities, Hunter said it’s necessary to be seen from the beginning.
It’s important to show students that they really are there to protect the students and faculty on campus, Hunter said.
“We make sure we’re actively moving and patrolling the streets and interacting with students, faculty, staff and parents,” Hunter said.
BUPD’s added security is not permanent and the department will go back to regular staffing this weekend.
The goal of the of the extra officers on Segways, bicycles and on foot was to maintain a safe campus, Hunter said.
“It wasn’t any type of intimidation factor or anything like that,” Hunter said. “It was just good old-fashioned community policing.”
Both Ryan and Hunter said that one of their main goals was to change how students perceive BUPD officers.
“I’m always surprised when people see a police officer walk up them,” Hunter said. “They always think they’re going to get arrested. That’s not the case.”
With increased media coverage, Hunter said that he was worried about people targeting campus.
“There are people that see that [there is a large number of freshman] and think ‘well, I know they’re going to bring laptops, and iPods and GPS units,’” Hunter said. “Not all students are good at getting those things inside so there was potential for crime.”
Last year’s Welcome Week brought on an onslaught of car break-ins and thefts. This was one of the things the additional staff focused on during this year’s event.
“We used the opportunity to hit the parking lots and be visible so that if there was anyone targeting our campus they would see police officers,” Hunter said.
Hunter said that there were no problems in parking lots during the first week of school.
“We didn’t have those incidents, but you never know if high visibility contributes to making people not commit crimes either,” Hunter said.
Since Butler’s campus is in the heart of the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, Ryan said that one of the goals of BUPD is to inform students about their responsibilities as good, respectful neighbors and not to just catch violations.
“We just stopped in at one or two of the parties,” Ryan said. “They weren’t being crazy or anything, but they were out there so we told them what the good neighbor thing is to do.”
Because of the growing student body, Butler might be in the spotlight for people in the community who may bring trouble to the campus.
“We felt it was important for us to be visible, not only so that our students know we were out there, but also so that we were seen by members of the community and by any potential person that may want to come onto campus and cause problems,” Ryan said.
Both officers said they were pleased with the results of Welcome Week.
Hunter said that he feels confident that the staff will continue to make students on campus and in the community feel safe.
“There were a lot of positive interactions,” Hunter said. “I’m very happy with my staff from that standpoint.”