Fordham University’s Department of Public Safety goes about its mission to protect the Fordham community with a mix of new technologies and old-fashioned care.
This year, the department has implemented several technological advances, including a mechanical gate that expedites and secures entrance to a parking area for commuter students and a smartphone app that helps students find a ride home late at night.
John Carroll, associate vice president for public safety, said technology is not a substitute for the experience and attention of a well-trained staff, but it can help the University connect with students.
“The technology assists us in communicating and controlling access to the campus in a more efficient and cost-effective way,” he said.
A new electronic card access system is one way that technology is helping the public safety team manage access to campus more effectively. As of the start of the fall 2014 semester, entrances to all residence halls on both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses were outfitted with electronic card readers.
Students, faculty, and staff have been issued new identification cards. When a community member holds his or her card to the reader to gain access to campus, a large version of the photograph appears on a screen. This helps the public safety officer more clearly confirm that the person standing in front of them is the same person whose photograph is on the ID card.
The new system also allows the University to immediately disable lost or stolen identification cards.
Carroll and his team also hope that technology will make it even easier for students to take advantage of the public safety services Fordham provides.
For example, at Rose Hill the University runs a shuttle van service through the local community, near off-campus student housing and popular neighborhood hangouts, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day. While the shuttle service is not new, the University recently launched a smartphone app that helps students locate the vans while they’re in service.
The app, called TransLoc Rider, is available on iOS and Android devices. Thanks to GPS technology, the app shows students—in real time—exactly where they are in relation to the vans on each of the three shuttle routes.
Carroll said he hopes this will help students plan accordingly and wait safely for a ride home.
“The van takes about 30 minutes to make the circuit, and that’s where the TransLoc app is important. You’ll know exactly where the vehicle is, so you don’t have to stand outside for 20 minutes waiting,” he said.
The new app is only one point of access students have to the public safety team at night.
Karen Carr and Jeremiah Halloran are duty supervisors employed by Fordham. Retired police offers, they maintain a presence in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx each night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Carr and Halloran drive through the community in a Fordham-branded Chevy Tahoe, stopping to offer rides to students walking alone or in other circumstances that may compromise their safety.
Halloran said he sometimes hears students call their parents while he is giving them a ride home.
“When students tell their parents there is a public safety truck out there that gives them rides, it gives them some peace of mind back home,” he said.
In her role driving around campus, Carr said she has gotten to know many members of the student community by name. Some students take her up on the offer for a ride. Others decline, and she lets them know she will stay nearby to make sure they make it home safely.
She said that regardless of whether students accept a ride, she offers them advice on walking home safely late at night. In addition to staying in groups and knowing where they are going in advance, she advises them to keep their smartphones and tablets out of sight, and not just for the threat of having the device stolen.
“We’ve all become a society of people looking down at [our]phones instead of around ourselves. We can all get a little lazy sometimes, and start checking our emails a block away from home, but it’s vital to be aware of your surroundings,” she said.
For dedicated public safety team members like Carr, the technological advancements provide even more tools to protect the community she cares about so deeply.
“Fordham students are good young people with a good future ahead of them,” she said. “My granddaughter is starting to look at colleges, and I want her to come here.”
By Jennifer Spencer