March 26, 2007
Emory campus police fight
crime with focus on prevention
by kim urquhart
The Emory Police Department’s role in solving a recent campus crime is just one example of the department’s service to the Emory community.
Earlier this month, an Emory student on the Clairmont campus was forced into a vehicle at gunpoint and driven to a bank, where he was instructed to withdraw money from his account. The student was released in the bank parking lot and was not injured during the incident. Not long after the crime was reported, two suspects were taken into custody and charged with the offense.
“This case was just another example of the good relationship that we have with other law enforcement agencies and how everybody works together to solve something like that,” said Emory Chief of Police Craig Watson of the ongoing investigation.
Watson said the department was appreciative of the many leads it received from the Emory community. “We depend on the community to help us” in reporting suspicious activity, Watson said. “On the Emory campus we have 36 police positions, so we have 36 sets of eyes to look out over the campus. But in the community we have 14,000 faculty and staff. You know better than we do what looks out of the ordinary,” he added.
The EPD will continue its increased presence on the Clairmont campus and other security measures taken in response to this incident, part of its commitment to making Emory a safe place in which to live, study and work.
“One of the questions we get asked a lot is ‘is Emory a safe campus?’ The answer is yes, I really believe we have a safe campus,” Watson said. “But like the robbery at Clairmont exemplifies, we’re not immune to the ills that affect the rest of society.”
Violent crime is unusual at Emory, where the most predominate type of criminal activity is petty theft of unsecured property. Watson, who emphasized that the EPD is a state-certified police agency, said his department is “fortunate that we don’t have to face some of the things that other police departments do on as frequent a basis. That gives us the opportunity to devote more time to community functions.”
It also gives Emory police officers more opportunities to be proactive instead of reactive, to take steps to identify and anticipate problem areas of safety and security. “Police presence and visibility makes a difference in certain areas, but prevention is our goal,” Watson said. “I’d rather put our resources into being proactive as much as possible.”
The EPD’s “community policing” approach to law enforcement means that the duties of Emory police extend beyond the traditional model of traffic stops and arrests. Officers also reach out to the community through crime prevention programs and presentations.
To this end, Lieutenant Cheryl Elliott has made herself a familiar face around campus. Elliott heads the EPD’s crime prevention unit, which provides information and training on safety issues and services such as bicycle and personal property registration. “My responsibility is to be a community contact,” said Elliott, who also serves as the department’s public information officer. “We have to recognize that we are the fourth largest employer in the southeast and the largest employer in DeKalb County, and that means our efforts in community relations don’t stop at the walls,” Elliott said. “Anything that we do needs to impact especially our faculty and staff,” she added.
From drug and alcohol awareness to an intensive driver training program for employees and their teenagers, the crime prevention team offers presentations on a wide range of topics. Personalized service is a point of pride with Elliott. “Everybody’s situation on campus is different,” she said. “We take general safety concerns a bit further and make sure it is tailored for your particular department.”
Making police officers more central and accessible to the Emory community is another focus of the EPD. The addition of two new Segway scooters to its fleet of patrol vehicles allows the officers to have an increased presence in Emory’s pedestrian-oriented campus. The easy-to-manuever, go-anywhere electric scooters enable officers to have faster response times and an elevated view above crowds. The scooters also allow the officer to be more approachable than they would be if sitting in a cruiser. “It’s a great way to maintain visibility and presence on campus,” Watson said.
Keeping the Emory community safe is just one goal of the EPD. Officers are not only expected to perform their law enforcement duties, but to recognize their role as service employees.
“Law enforcement is a service that we provide, but it’s just one small part,” Watson said. “We really believe our function is to be a service provider to the community and to serve as a resource to the community.”