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Who’s Got Your Back?

Campus Police
Campus Police

 

 

 

If you are one of the 1,200 UMB students living in either Harbor Point or the Peninsula, you are currently protected by three independent police forces: Harbor Point (HP) Security, the Boston Police Department (BPD), and campus police.

But, which one of these forces do you call and when?

According to Richard Lee, Assistant Director of Public Safety at UMB, this jurisdictional issue is endemic of “every university in Boston.”

“It’s a political issue within the state,” said Lee, adding, “all police departments are continuously fighting the battle of jurisdiction. It is generic of public safety.”

To have jurisdiction is to be “able to make arrests, direct traffic, enforce the laws, either of the school or the commonwealth,” explained Lee.

Thus, if along Morrissey Boulevard there is an assault going on, a UMB officer could “stop the assault, but would have to call the Boston Police Department and wait.” The BPD officer would be the one able to make the arrest because Morrissey Boulevard is beyond campus police jurisdiction.

UMB officers do not have the authority to make arrests, nor the legal protection that accompanies jurisdiction.

Although this conflict is one most universities in Boston face, UMB has one critical difference from all other campuses: all students live off campus.

So, who legally gets to protect UMB students? The answer to this question is all the police forces get to protect students. But, except for the BPD, officers do not have legal protections in all places a student might find him or herself within Boston.

Dean of Students Mark Jannoni stressed in an interview the especially complicated scenario in Harbor Point and The Peninsula. According to Jannoni, because there is a high concentration of students in these two locations, any issues that come up there are given a greater deal of attention than something that happens in Jamaica Plain (JP), for example, because they don’t know exactly where students in JP live. Something that happens in Harbor Point may very well affect all students in Harbor Point – hundreds of them.

“Harbor Point and the Peninsula are privately owned,” Director of Student Housing Shelby Harris pointed out, “as is their security company.”

This means that a student living in HP is under the authority of both the BPD and the HP private security. Campus police have no authority to assist. Though, campus police assure they would help if a student called, regardless of jurisdiction.

Another equally pressing issue that arises out of the jurisdiction problems is one of communication. “Unless [Harbor Point or the Peninsula] have a signed waver by students living there and going to UMass to disclose reports, they don’t have to hand them over to us,” Harris points out.

Therefore, a student’s apartment could be broken into and students, who have a vested interest in such illegal activities, may not know about it for days.

Why? There is no legal obligation for the BPD or HP Security to tell campus police. According to Harris, UMB faculty usually find out about issues “through the grapevine.” Either a student comes to talk to her about an issue, or the knowledge is disseminated through the campus police to her.

Nonetheless, “the communication has been reasonable, for the most part,” says Jannoni, “I think the relationship is improving.” Jannoni affirmed that, though there is no legal precedent to do so, much has been communicated to the university by the BPD and HP Security.

Will the issues that arise from these mixed jurisdictional obligations ever be resolved?

Lee assured repeatedly that the relationships between the three groups were strong and getting stronger. But, “I don’t ever particularly see this issue being resolved until it is done legislatively,” Lee added.

It will take action at the level of policy makers in order to change things.

Regardless, there is a third concern. Do students living in Harbor Point or the Peninsula want Campus Police patrolling where they live? A survey of 34 students living in Harbor Point and The Peninsula revealed a large majority (24) opposed to campus police patrolling the areas.

Also, what do students think the presence campus security would bring to the table with regards to their personal safety?

Cory Sullivan, freshman UMB student and HP resident thinks that their security presence would “help outside the buildings, on the roads,” but that they wouldn’t actually be able to do anything “to prevent petty theft.” Sullivan was a victim of such theft. After opening a window to get some air into his room he went into his kitchen, when he came back he saw a hand reaching in through his window. The thief stole his iPod right off his desk.

Sullivan does think that the HP Security prevents serious crimes, such as violence outside the buildings, but that the minor crimes within the buildings are impossible to entirely prevent or solve. “If you leave anything out and unsecured it’ll get stolen.”

All three departments confirmed and reconfirmed to ensuring the safety of students.