Full transcript with Barbara O’Connor

The Daily Illini: How do jurisdiction lines affect UIPD authority over the campus, in relation to both Champaign and Urbana? Are those jurisdictions strictly enforced? Why do state police get involved?

University Chief of Police Barbara O’CONNOR: Okay, that’s a long question. I’m happy to tackle it, and I’ll have Jeff (Christensen) jump in because he’s been here much longer than I have. We have concurrent jurisdiction, so the way our enabling statute is written is wherever the University of Illinois owns property, we have jurisdiction in the entire county. To follow up on, I think, part two of that question, we have a great working relationship with the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana. There are very rare (occurrences) that we ever get into jurisdictional disputes. Whoever kind of gets there, whoever’s available, deals with what they need to deal with and shares the information with the other PD. That’s a tremendous advantage to the community. We also have a regional dispatch. I think you guys probably know that, it’s call METCAD. So, the way it works with METCAD is because they’re dispatching for all three of those police agencies, they kind of know who’s available and not available, and if someone needs help they’ll immediately divert the resources from any one of those three jurisdictions. So it works pretty seamlessly; I’ll share with you: coming from the northeast, that’s not always the case. You have to sit there at your border, even though you can hear on the scanner that the other police agency needs help. Until they officially and formally request, you’re stuck there at your border. That doesn’t happen here, so, I’ll look at Jeff and see if he wants to elaborate on that.

CHRISTENSEN: No, I think you hit it…you know, we have ownership of the campus district, which is nice, because that’s where people live and trade.

O’CONNOR: …And of course you know we do have a crime mapping together in conjunction with all three police agencies as well, to kind of give you the full scale of not just what’s happening on the University but what’s happening on the Campustown district, as well as what’s happening in contiguous areas in Urbana.

State police was the third part of that question. I’m not sure why you’re asking that question, but, you know, obviously, they’re state police, they have jurisdiction pretty much wherever they want. They’re respectful of the agency that has primary jurisdiction. They’re not going to come in and assume or conduct an investigation or an enforcement action without collaborating with us or, again, whoever the primary jurisdiction is.

DI: How do the Urbana police, Champaign police and University (police) work together? How are patrols decided? I know that we’ve reported that, even with increased crime, increasing patrols wouldn’t (be) either a viable option or one that you want to do.

O’CONNOR: I want to clarify. I’m not saying that it’s not a viable option. I have said and will continue to say, look at the size of the jurisdiction we have to police … And to have you feel any sense of, we’ve increased our police response with 40-something officers, taking an administrator like me out of that number, another administrator, taking the detectives out, taking the sergeants out, taking the lieutenants out … and then with police vacancies, you’re down to a number into the 30s. It’s very difficult to say – OK, with 30 something officers spread out amongst three shifts, accounting for days off, vacations, sick time – it would be very difficult for us to really have you sense like there’s a cop on every street corner. That’s the essence of what people want to see, and that’s not practical. That’s what we’re up against. So, we have increased patrols, and we have and will continue to do some overtime. We’ve worked with the City of Champaign to do robbery details when we knew we were getting these situations in December. Jeff will share with you … I’m constantly pushing my staff to think outside the box, and there are different ways in which we can do this, to help people with that perception or that sense of fear. Again, going back to the size of the institution, the number of streets involved, that’s a very difficult task.

So, we’re exploring and continuing to do a lot of the things we’ve always done, but we’re also exploring other options. The camera system which we’ve announced this week that we’re sort of rolling that out into city streets is another option. That will be what I call a “force multiplier.” So, if we deploy a robbery detail and they’re sitting on the corner of Wright and Green, they can be in their car with a laptop with different images from these 10 other cameras. So, even though I’m at Wright and Green, I can have a camera over by Armory Street. I can be watching and say, “Well, geez, that guy doesn’t quite look right. Why is he kind of hanging out on that corner?” Because we know the MO on a lot of these robberies is they’re sort of hanging out, and we can have the officer respond pretty quickly. (The officer can) kind of do an inquiry in terms of: are you affiliated with the University? Why are you here? We were watching you on the camera, your activities are suspicious and sort of conduct, in legal terms, that threshold inquiry based upon a reasonable suspicion. So, those are the things that we need to do, along with kind of continuing. …And the campus has been very clear about maintaining our staffing levels. So, our vacancies that we have have been cleared for hiring. The drawback to that is that it takes a full year and then some to hire an officer, (to) get him through the academy before we have a measurable impact and putting them out on the street. So, we’re hiring two (employees), which are our two vacancies. We have some officers that are deployed in the military. We’re hoping that they’ll be back in March; that’ll be very helpful. For us, and being the size of department that we are, any vacancy, really, impacts us pretty dramatically. We’re grateful to the campus for continuing to support us, because safety is important. Why is it important? Because it’s important that you guys get your education and don’t become victims of crime.

CHRISTENSEN: Patrol does focus their efforts when there’s problems. The three arrests that we had on the three armed robberies…that was from the work that our patrol officers did focusing on this. They take it very personally; they really do.

O’CONNOR: I’ll share with you, too, I mean, it was a great piece of police work by one of our officers who stopped a car that was suspicious. Through further investigation, (the officer) identified this one individual as a suspect, and then connected him and others back to three of our robberies: two of ours and one of Champaign’s. So, we cleared those through a great piece of police work. I think it’s important, too, and Jeff, if you want to elaborate on our focus areas and how we do some community policing, because I think it’s important for students to hear about that as well.

CHRISTENSEN: We have focus areas where officers are assigned to spend their uncommitted time. So, they’re in housing, geographically spread out. We have traffic officers, but, they really do work in identifying what the problems are and concerns are … from the cultural houses to campus rec. That works pretty well.

DI: How many officers are you expecting back once the ones in the military hopefully come back? After you get those two vacancies filled, do you know how many more you would have after that?

O’CONNOR: Well, I’d have to do the count in my head, and maybe Jeff could do it a little bit quicker. Those sorts of things are kind of always fluid. We have an officer who just came forward and told us that she’s expecting a baby, so at some point she’s not going to be able to work the street anymore. We have an officer who we know has to have shoulder surgery, so he’s not working the streets. So, those numbers are always somewhat fluid. As much as we’d like to say we’re at full strength, I can tell you, having been a police chief for some seven or eight years, you’re never at full strength. You just never are because things always happen. An officer could come to work tonight (and) trip and break their ankle. So, it’s very difficult to be at full strength, but we feel with the two vacancies, again, that hopefully by then our two officers will be back. Our full strength is 55, and that’s from the chief down.

CHRISTENSEN: We do have a relief factor built in there for things like military leave and injuries and things like that. It’s not a real big relief factor, but that is built in to any police agency.

DI: Expanding on what you mentioned before about thinking outside the box, is there anything other than the camera systems that are being installed that you guys are looking into or you’re thinking about?

O’CONNOR: It’s a good question because one of my personal missions is to integrate our security technologies on campus. We’re a very decentralized campus, and I think you guys know that. I’ve come on and said (that) when it comes to security, we can’t be decentralized. We really have to look at maximizing our opportunities. So, as an example, we have some buildings on campus that have card access. You come in, and you scan your card through the system. Right now, that system is not currently located in the police department. It is down at Facilities and Services, and Jeff, does housing maintain their own card access system?

CHRISTENSEN: I’m not sure.

O’CONNOR: And I don’t know the answer to that either, but those systems need to come in here. They can be jointly functioning systems. It’s just a computer; it’s not that complicated. Some of it is a wiring issue, but we need to bring those systems into the PD, so when someone (enters through) card access, you’re going into check on a lab at 2 a.m. because you’re a student researcher, and you need to check something. If you do that now, we don’t know that. If that machine is in here, and it’s sitting in our dispatch center, and you card access in at 2 a.m. in the morning… that’s kind of unusual. It’s (the access image) going to pop up on a screen, and we would have access to that. Now that will allow us the opportunity to do a walk through that floor. It allows us the opportunity to confirm that you’re actually supposed to be in that building. It can be just a key, or it can be a security system, and if you’re using it just as a key, it’s a very expensive key. If you’re using it as a security system, then where should it reside? It should reside with the folks who are responsible for security. So, we’re working with F&S; to actually bring in the system that they control into the PD. So, that’s another example of things that we can do that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money, but that I think are going to enhance, and again, sort of be a force multiplier for us. When I explain this to people, I talk a lot about the homicide that happened at Yale University … the fact that you had cameras in that building that were connected to card access systems and badge keys. So, when that homicide happened, whether it was the city of New Haven or Yale, I’m not sure who was the investigative authority, they knew within a matter of hours by looking at that technology that that young lady hadn’t left the building. They also knew within a matter of hours who was card accessing into her lab. So, they were able to focus on, in a matter of hours, suspects. They proceeded very slowly because they wanted to be sure they had the right suspect, but they arrested him within a week. Without that technology, he may still be working in that lab and they may not have known. So, I think that’s a good example: that’s the kind of technology I want to bring into the University of Illinois Police Department. We have that kind of stuff; it’s out there. It’s amazing what security technologies can do when you connect it all in. That’s another example.

DI: If it works out that we have those things, would the police department keep track of it or would you be able to talk to (F&S;) and figure that out somehow?

O’CONNOR: Yes. We would get access to the information, but you’re talking at 2 a.m., you’ve got to call and go through that whole system. Again, we don’t know that you’ve gone in at 2 a.m.; we would know after the fact when something happens, versus, 2 a.m. – that’s really odd, no one goes in that building at that hour. That’s something we’re going to check on. We want the ability to do an investigation with those technologies and not necessarily have anyone know we’re doing it, for obvious reasons. Folks have been great when we need the information; we get it; I think it’s just an example for us to get that quicker and be a little bit more proactive.

DI: Is that going to cost a lot? I know you said it might require some rewiring.

O’CONNOR: I don’t think so. We’re just in the initial process with F&S; to bring the machine over; they’ve confirmed that we want that. So, I don’t think it’s going to be a lot of money.

DI: Has that already been determined or are you guys still working through the process?

O’CONNOR: Well, we’re still working through it, but I would say it’s a for sure thing. It’s going to happen; it’s just a few more hurdles to jump over before we’re there.

DI: Do you feel like the University or Facilities and Services is good about working with you?

O’CONNOR: Absolutely. I would say that there’s an incredible teamwork approach. I think, in a lot of ways, it’s us asking … or it’s us learning about these technologies, and as the leader of the organization saying we need to have those things in here, versus, there’s been a level of comfort in that decentralized system.


O’CONNOR: I’ve said, if we need to change that (the decentralized system), we need to think differently about that. And we have to be willing to take that on. I think that probably could have happened five or 10 years ago. I just think that different chiefs have different philosophies and different ways of thinking. I’m very much a believer in, yes, we are the police, but we’re also the Division of Public Safety. Policing in a major university also means being very astute around security and technologies. That’s one of the ways that makes us different from your town police. Chief Finney of Champaign isn’t going to worry about this building having this alarm system or card access here or card access there. We need to think about that because it’s our university.

CHRISTENSEN: Thinking out of the box: how do we get more student participation? … that’s huge. It’s individual responsibility and being safe.

DI: How aware do you feel students are about what they can do (about being safe), and how they could help you guys out? Do you feel like students are with you on this?

O’CONNOR: I think some students are, some aren’t. As I travel the campus, some students tell me, “I just delete your e-mails, I don’t even read them.” I have other students who read them very much and are very much concerned—who will comment back. I think that level varies. I don’t think we’re any different in Illinois than we were in UMass where I came from, or University of California at Berkeley. I think students, they’re 18 to 22 years old, they’re focusing on getting their education, they’re living away from home for the first time, and they’re less apt to—if I’m in my home in Champaign and I see a car that goes up or down the street that seems suspicious, or someone walking in my neighborhood that doesn’t look right, I’m not going to hesitate for a second to call the police and say, “Hey, there’s this suspicious car.”

Students don’t think that way. By and large, I’m making sweeping generalizations, but for the most part, it’s been my experience that they’ll process that information, and they’ll say, “Jeeze, that guy who was on our floor, he doesn’t look right,” and they’ll talk to another student, they’ll then talk to the RA, and then they’ll pick up the phone and call us. Well, that delay makes it very difficult for us to solve a crime.

So, one of the things we’ve been really clear about and will continue to try and communicate with students: If it doesn’t look right, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to call us. We’re here 24/7. We’d rather be busier. We have no problem coming up and walking a floor and finding out if the person should be there or shouldn’t be there. And we’ve also learned, through some of our robberies and sending out the Crime Alerts, that there are students who haven’t even reported that. We had one young man, maybe two, come in later, after we sent some of the Crime Alerts out in December, saying, “Well, that same thing happened to me, I just didn’t report it.” Never accept being the victim of a crime as the cost of doing business. If you’re the victim of a crime, we would continue to have you report it.

DI: What are other things (do) you think students could or need to do a better job (with) to protect themselves and to make campus safer?

O’CONNOR: The biggest thing we’ve tried to emphasize is (that) there are 42,000 students. You can be, again, a force multiplier for us by getting involved, and getting involved can really be something as simple as, “I see this robbery happening. I’m going to stay on this side of the street, I’m going to call, and I’m going to be a really good witness.” And practice being a really good witness, and reporting that pretty consistently: that sense of getting involved. One of the campaigns that Student Affairs has worked on in conjunction with us is saying, “Not on our campus.” Just saying, “Hey, we’re not going to accept this level of violence on our campus,” and that we’re going to be reporting this to the police, I think is really important. The robbers in this case kind of count on the fact that you’re not going to report. That, if I can do a quick grab and grab your wallet, take your cash and throw your wallet 50 feet down, you’re happy that you got your debit card back and your credit card and your ID, but you’re not going to report the loss of that 50 dollars. And then they’re on to their next victim. What we really want you to do is say, “That’s not acceptable.” If nothing else, be safe as you can. It’s only property; be a good witness and call and report it.

CHRISTENSEN: And watch out for each other. In a number of ways, you’re walking down the street, and you see somebody that may need some help, or you’re out with some friends, and somebody wanders off by themselves, try not to let them do that. Take ownership of the community. I know that’s difficult as a student, but that’s key.

DI: Do you think students are using SafeWalks and SafeRides to their best potential, or do you think they still need to be doing more?

CHRISTENSEN: They’re doing it more now. The stats are up on that. And again, we’re trying to figure out how to market that better to students, so they realize what it is, and it’s okay. It’s cool to use SafeRides.

O’CONNOR: Can we talk about, he brought up the point about the Crime Alerts, though? Because there’s a lot of confusion about that, so I just want to clarify a little bit. There’s a federal law; it’s called “Clery.” It’s based on a young lady by the name of Jeanne Clery who was killed in 1986 … and her parents really went on a mission to say, “Had we known that these sort of things were happening, had we known this University didn’t have card access or didn’t lock their doors 24/7, we would have shopped differently for the school we selected for our daughter.” So, the federal government imposed, by their commerce powers, a mandate of reporting of crimes for police agencies. Now, the University of Illinois, much like the campus I was on before I came here, (and) most public schools, were already submitting our data to UCI or federal government for crime counting—but a lot of privates didn’t. This mandates the privates to do that as well, and it mandates not just that, but disclosing policies on security. One of the most important aspects of that is sending out these Crime Alerts. We did that, obviously. We met the federal law before I got here. And you can do it in a number of ways. The law doesn’t say how you have to do it, it just says however you do it, you have to publish it; you have to tell people how you’re doing it. So, when I came on board last January, I said we really need to come in line with best practices, and our primary form of communication as a University is through e-mail. Most of the Big Ten institutions, the university I came from, you’re using e-mail to do that. So once we implemented that e-mail system, the risk in doing that was a sense of what you’re seeing now — crime is kind of out of control, because people weren’t paying attention to it. If they didn’t read the DI, if they didn’t go to our Web site, if they didn’t get the flyer from their residence hall, they weren’t paying attention to it. Now you have it right in your inbox, and it’s interesting stuff, so people are reading it. So that has (created) this perception that crime has really gone up. The good part about that is we are meeting the intent of the law. If I’m aware that a robbery happened at the corner of Springfield by the County Market, I’m going to pay a little more attention when I go to that area and that’s clearly what we’re seeing now. A lot of what we’re doing in the Crime Alerts is not necessarily new.

Until December, I was saying to people in this conversation, “Our crime’s not up, you’re just more aware of it.” December was a particularly egregious month, and then with the heightened awareness when we had a few in January, it continued this effect. Of course, it’s going out through the parents’ listserv, so we’re hearing from your parents as well. So, good news, bad news: the good news is it’s an opportunity to say what can we do to shore up our security. Folks are concerned about it, as we are concerned about it: what can we do in terms of that thinking outside the box and capitalizing on opportunities for change. And having you guys capitalize on opportunities for change, and creating awareness, too, is important.

DI: Do you think this heightened awareness is good for students and makes them more aware of everything going on, or do you think the panic that goes along with it is detrimental to students?

O’Connor: I think it’s both. We don’t want to have a false perception that the University of Illinois is unsafe, because, as most institutions of higher learning, they’re extremely safe places to be. They’re more safe than if you’re going to walk the city of New York or the city of Chicago. Statistically, crimes that happen on campus are very low. That said, we don’t want people feeling like some folks are now saying, and we see this through the DPS comments, that it’s worse than Chicago. It’s not. It’s not. There’s different levels of what’s going to cause an alert here. It is going to be vastly different than what’s going to cause an alert at the University of Chicago. So it’s not fair to compare those two. Yet, at the same time, what we send an alert here for, or wouldn’t send an alert here, they might not at a small, all women’s institution. If we have a car break, for example, we’re not going to send an alert. When I was in law school, I kind of chuckled because I would get crime alerts on a car break. Of course, we wouldn’t do that at a major university, because we don’t want to desensitize you to the alert.

So it’s a balancing act that we do, and (we) use our discretion as to when we’re sending them out and (when) we’re not. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about that because it has to pose an imminent risk. So, if we arrest someone for a robbery tonight, we’re not going to send a Crime Alert tomorrow because the offender has been apprehended: there’s no ongoing risk. So, we get a lot of confusion going back on that. To follow up on the second part of your question, I think it does raise awareness, and I think that awareness is a good thing.

Christensen: We recognize that it could increase the fear level and things like that. Hopefully we can get to the point where people really understand the purpose of these, and we can get information out that’s realistic about what the real crime problem is, and people (can) turn that anxiety more toward helping us. That’d be great.

DI: Even as far as increased awareness and working with us, how soon after a crime or the report of a crime that you’re allowed to talk about it with the media and how much information and what kind of information that you can give to the media during that investigation?

O’Connor: That’s a good question. The law allows us some discretion. So, if we have a robbery, using that as an example, and we know pretty clearly and quickly who did it, but we don’t want to release the information because it might increase the risk of flight, we won’t release it. The law allows you that kind of information. If we have no suspects, if we’re not, within a short amount of time, able to get a sense of where the investigation’s going, we’re going to lean on the side of releasing as much information to you as as a community: one, to help us identify any offenders, if you were in or around the area, or two, (to) allow you to think about your own safety plan.

DI: Why don’t you ever send, when you arrest someone, an e-mail that this person’s been found?

O’Connor: I’m glad you asked that question because that’s also created a lot of confusion, and if you paid attention originally to our crime alerts, back initially when we did this, (we were doing) it all on e-mail. I wanted to go to the system of directing you to our Web site, because that’s where you see the updates. We’re not going to send you an e-mail saying we caught the three guys who did these robberies. But we are posting those on our Web site. So we wanted students to get in the habit of constantly going to the link, because eventually, when our camera system takes off, we’re also hoping to have video images for you to look at on our Web site.

The moment we changed that to go to that link, we learned a couple things. One, students want the information that way. The feedback we got was they clearly wanted it. You know, times have changed, and students are walking around with Blackberrys like the rest of us, and you’re across campus, and you want to read it on your iPhone. So, based on giving a lot of feedback, we went back to the old system. But we’re adding into that: click on the link. So you’ll see that as a standard template. If you want to know if we got the guy who robbed someone three weeks ago, go to our Web page. To me, it wouldn’t make sense to send that out. It would be hard to manage that information as well. It’s just easier to put it back to the Web page and have you go there for it. I don’t know that you’d want an e-mail from us saying, “Hey, we arrested the guy.” As much as there’s some students who clearly want all the information all the time, we also get a lot of comments back saying, don’t even send these to me anymore.

Christensen: Now, you guys don’t get that information because in our daily release that your reporter gets, we would list if we’ve arrested the individual.

O’Connor: That’s right, there’s other places to get that information than the police blotter.

DI: Talking about the digital camera system, is that going to be something that can deter crime, or is that mostly going to be just for solving?

O’Connor: Well, I think it’s both. I think it’ll be both. Certainly if you know there’s a camera there, there’s certain things you can do to avoid it. So in the cases of those folks who aren’t familiar with the presence of a camera, it’ll help us, when they commit a crime, to catch them. But I think over a long period of time, and when you study this stuff and you research it where they’ve been in other universities, it has a long-term impact on reducing crime. And that’s not just colleges and universities; that’s the city of Chicago, the city of New York, London, various places around the country.

DI: Are there any privacy issues that you could forsee with having all these cameras there all the time, or are they going to be in residence halls at all? Or are they going to be in complexes where people are living, things like that, or are they just going to be in public places?

O’Connor: There’s laws that govern the use of that and where you have an expectation of privacy and where you don’t. You guys know this, I don’t have to tell you. You have the greatest expectation of privacy in your own home, (like) your apartment. But you don’t have an expectation of privacy, under the law (and your image) in any public place. So you walk up to a bank machine, or ATM machine, you walk into a supermarket – no expectation of privacy. You’re walking down a city street: no expectation of privacy. You run a red light in the city of Chicago: no expectation of privacy. So, we’re very aware of that. The policy that the University promulgated last March was vetted through; Legal Counsel sat on that to make sure we were covering those issues. You can never be recorded; the law is pretty clear. You know that you can’t record someone without their permission. So, if in fact, we were to deploy a camera on a city street, and as it panned, zoomed or tilted as, we call it, PTZ, and it came into the front of your porch, let’s say, you’re a private citizen renting, it’ll automatically black out. Because you have an expectation of privacy as you’re sitting on your front porch, it would black out. Once it clears the area where there’s no longer an expectation of privacy, it’ll begin recording again. It’s all programmed through technology. The campus I came from, we had some outside cameras, and we would have to do that, because the pan, tilt, zoom, we used it mostly for riot control, but as it pan-tilt-zoomed it would come across a residence hall, and it would just immediately go blank until it cleared that corner, and then it would come back out. So we were never looking in a student’s residence hall. By promulgating the policy, there’s a level of accountability in that, in that absent a policy. If I were a citizen I would be concerned about that, too. As a lawyer and someone who believes in the ACLU, surprising that a chief would say that, but I think that there’s some concern in that argument. At the end of the day, though, having a policy and saying that there’s one person who’s responsible for this, and that’s the police department, is better than having this college having their cameras and this college having theirs, and this one having theirs, and there’s one use, there’s one system, there’s one point of control. And I think that’s better than that decentralized system.

Christensen: And somebody’s not going to be watching it all the time. “Hey, somebody just walked into the residence hall with a bottle of Jagermeister. You know, we need to get on that.” That’s not going to happen. It’s going to be used more as an investigative tool. We’ll go back, and though we may not have the audio because we can’t record that, we’ll have the images that we can look at as part of the investigation.

O’Connor: But it could be, sort of just to follow up, coming from a system where we had a lot cameras, I saw this used; you’d have a fight in the lobby of a residence hall. The dispatcher can bring it up, and you can actually see. Or, I came home, this guy was just walking out of my residence hall with my laptop. Bring him up, there he is. He’s leaving right there – the dispatcher says to the officer, he’s wearing a blue pinstripe shirt, with a kind of brownish t-shirt underneath; he’s this foot tall, this, this and this. And then you walk outside, and you’re now on a public view camera. And I’ve seen dispatchers do this. Stop your cruiser; he’s right there. That’s what we called them on the east coast: cruisers. Now it’s squads. He’s right there, stop, he’s right on your left, you got him. And the dispatcher’s guiding them right through the apprehension. And I’ve seen sort of the unintended consequences where you would have a pedestrian and someone getting involved in a fight, and the officers arrive on the scene, that suspect’s sitting very calmly on the curb, and the dispatcher telling them, “See the guy in the yellow coat right there? He’s the one who assaulted the witness to the accident.” And you just walk up, and people deny it, and you go, wait a second, let me play it back. We’re going to be at the point where our officers will have them on iPhones. What do you mean that wasn’t you? It’s irrefutable evidence in some respects. Over the long run, solving those kinds of crimes, you’re going to see things go down, because there will be a sense of enhanced security on campus.

DI: So, with residence halls, you could have it in the lobby, like you were saying?

O’Connor: We don’t have any in our residence halls here. None here. Although I would share with you, I’ve encouraged housing to think about that.

DI: Can we shift gears a little bit and talk about Unofficial? What are your thoughts? Do you have plans setting up? What’s the dangerous part of the day from your point of view?

O’Connor: I’m going to let you tackle that one.

Christensen: We’ve been through this rodeo numerous times, but we’ll have plans set up. It’ll be very much like last year. There will be plenty of police out, and those police are basically out there for everyone’s safety because we know it is a high-risk event, and things can happen. Last year we saw a lot of the switch to the apartments, so we’ll be focusing a little more on that, but pretty much, like previous years. We got it out of the lecture halls, which is a good thing, and we’ll maintain our presence there.

O’Connor: Our biggest concern with Unofficial, – I mean there are several concerns – but at the end of the day with anything we do, and this is the continual message we would want to get to students, is that we care about you. We want you to be safe, you know. If you engage in excessive drinking, your risk goes up in a number of ways. You know, last year, we saw someone who was intoxicated fall from a third floor balcony. We’ve seen behaviors last year, you know, in that high rise. Students are climbing from one balcony to another, several floors up; if you fall, you are certainly falling to your death. Throwing full cans of beer down at passersby is going to kill someone, so those are our concerns. You know, we’re all about you having fun. Trust me, we were 18, 22 once upon a time too, but we don’t want you getting hurt when having that fun, and we know that 18 to 22 year olds take risks that you don’t at 48. It’s our job to try and minimize those risks, so at the end of the day or at the end of four years or maybe five, you’re getting that diploma and going on, hopefully, choosing more responsible things.

Christensen: Balconies are a big concern and those high rises.

DI: How much are balconies of a concern because I know more of the newer apartments are starting to get taller and taller.

Christensen: Well last year we saw the things that the chief is talking about: the examples of people jumping from one to another, the student that fell off. It’s a problem.

DI: Can we just clarify, I believe last year that someone had said that the number of students being taken to the hospital decreased, but the number of tickets had increased.

O’Connor: I don’t know that off the top of my head.

Christensen: Yeah I do know the number of transports decreased. (I’m) not really sure why. It might have been because it wasn’t in the bar environment where maybe you were more likely to wander off. You were at private parties, where, again, people are watching out for each other.

DI: I know last year there was a huge concern about the switch from bars to apartments. How do you think that that impacted things? Is it a really negative thing from your point-of-view, or was it a better thing for that reason?

Christensen: It’s different. It transferred the issue, but yet we had a lot of problems in the bars. We didn’t have a lot of problems the last couple of years.

O’Connor: We, you know, we had problems later in the day. Clearly, I think I worked until one or two in the morning. We got busy much later than we did in previous years. Your access to alcohol is different. Someone buys a keg versus having to buy a draft at a bar. I don’t think there’s a good answer to that question. I think at the end of the day excessive drinking is not a healthy thing regardless of whether it’s happening at a bar or happening at an apartment.

DI: There’s some talk on campus that police raid the bars just to make money, and they’re not really concerned about our safety. Can you just address that?

O’Connor: Sure. The jurisdiction for the bars is the City of Champaign. I would share with you that I’m not the chief of the City of Champaign, but I think the Chief of Champaign is equally concerned of your health and well-being as we are. I think whenever you’re engaged in law enforcement, and you’re trying to educate through a negative interaction by issuing you a ticket, it’s very hard to understand, “thank you officer. I understand that I won’t drink when I’m under 21 in a bar. That’s a good thing.” It’s the same thing when I’m up on the highway stopping you for going 90. Does anybody ever think, “Thank you officer. I’ll drive slower. Thank you for educating me with this speeding ticket.” That’s, again, trying to create change in behavior through negative enforcement is a very difficult thing to do, and it’s very hard for someone who is 18 or 22 to understand that. But that’s it. We know, at the end of the day, the law enforcement are responsible for that. If we are going to allow folks in bars underage, then you’ve got to have an enforcement mechanism for it. That enforcement mechanism serves as a deterrent and prevents things in the long run. But how do you measure what you’ve prevented? You just can’t.

Christensen: And we get no money from that. We get no money from the city ordinances; we get no money from the traffic tickets we write. It’s not a revenue source for us in any respect.

DI: So for those ordinances, do the cities get the money?

O’Connor: Yes. In the case of a traffic fine, it goes back to the state, does it not?

Christensen: If you’re the city or the county, you can draw money from it, but as a University, we can’t.

O’Connor: So if the city or county writes a speeding ticket, it does not come back to the general funds of the PD. It goes into the general funds of the city to be disbursed as they see fit.

DI: Also, the emergency phones on campus: How often are they being used? Are they outdated?

O’Connor: That’s a very good question. I recently shared an article with Brad Tran about that very issue. A couple things I guess I’d say about the emergency phone is … I don’t think we need to increase the number we have, but if we’re going to have them, the ones we have, which they are in good working order, they need to appear to be in good working order. So, we’re kind of trying to get rid of the graffiti that’s on them. If they sort of appear that the blue light is broken, we need to fix that because I think, at the end of the day, all those things kind of have an impact on your perception of safety on the campus and how the institution addresses safety. You know, I often say to folks here, its like having our squad cars be in impeccable condition because if the police are driving around in a bunch of dinged up, marked up police cars, it sends a very powerful image about how seriously we’re taking safety then. I’ll come in and see a hubcap off a squad car, and I’ll say “why is the hubcap off the squad car? Get it fixed. Why is it dented? Get it fixed” for that same sort of thing. New York police are probably a classic example of that with the broken windows theory. It’s the same kind of thing. You know, you’ve got to get the graffiti off the walls; you’ve got to have phones that look like they’re in good working condition. I think in some ways they’re outdated, but in some, we’re exploring these options. If we’re going to have them, can we actually increase their use? So, can we have them as sort of a reverse 911-speaker system? So if we want to send a message blast, there are technologies out there to do that. Can we use it that way? Can we put a camera on it so when you do call, we will eliminate the deterring effect of calling and doing that sort of drunken poke at 2 a.m. in the morning. You asked how many of them are real, and we looked at these statistics, and in about 1,000 of them … I’d have to say it was a very low percentage, like about 1 percent, were actually legitimate calls. That again, you’d find that typical across the country. I talked with one student recently about that. Going back since we’ve had these phones, which were around the mid-‘90s, it became sort of a theme.

Christensen: They were here when I was here in the ‘80s, and they got more and more popular.

O’Connor: When they went in, they made sense. All my time, I’ve been on the job for 27 years, I’ve had one case as an officer where they were legitimately used and helped us solve a crime, you know, and that was before the prevalence of cell phones. Most students, I don’t think, would think to look for one.

Christensen: I think the chief touched on this, but I think there’s some feeling that a lot of them are broken, that (they) don’t work. We check those every week. This past summer we did a comprehensive review of all of them, so not to guarantee they’re 100 percent working but they’re checked every week and repaired if needed.

O’Connor: They’re a little bit more challenging for us than say, south Florida or southern California because things freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. It’s a little bit more challenging to keep them in working order.

DI: Because only 1 percent of them are legitimate, is it even worth having them, especially now that we all have cell phones?

O’Connor: Again, I think that’s a very good question, and one that we have to engage in and have a conversation as a campus. So if we’re going to have them, keep them in good working order, we need to decide that. If we’re going to have them, should we consider additional investment and actually enhance their use? If we’re not, and we don’t really think they’re worth spending money, then maybe we need to remove them. But we have to be prepared as a campus to do that. I don’t want to make a unilateral decision, and I wouldn’t want administrators to make the unilateral decision (and) have students come back and say, kind of like they did with the crime alert, “why did you do that? We want it the other way.” We met with Brad Tran, and it’s a conversation we’re about to embark on.

DI: Is there anything else you think students have misconceptions of or things that you would like to explain in more depth?

O’Connor: I think at the end of the day what I really want students to know is that we’re here for you and not to be afraid to use us as a resource … to have a conversation with the police chief or deputy police chief. I think you will find us very caring and very open, very understanding to your life as a student. It’s not just us against them, and that’s very important for us to kind of continue to work on that relationship. I think we do enlarge.