When speaking to new Fordham parents, it’s not uncommon to hear a little bit of hesitation at sending their sons and daughters to college in the middle of the nation’s largest city.
John Carroll, associate vice president of safety and security, said that while every big city has its challenges, New York is also home to unparalleled resources.
“Fordham is blessed, in that you’re in New York City, which has the largest, most efficient and most effective police force in the world. Where else do you get 40,000 cops? At most colleges and universities, the security force at the university is usually the largest security force in town,” he said.
Carroll’s knowledge of the New York Police Department runs deep. Before coming to Fordham to head up security operations 20 years ago, Carroll was commanding officer of the 41st Precinct in the South Bronx. He was previously the commander of Manhattan South Detectives Homicide Task Force.
His history with the NYPD and friendships with many of its leaders create a benefit for Fordham students, he said.
“Yes, it’s my job to make sure the kids are safe on campus, and they truly are, but it’s also my job to get the cops to take care of our kids,” he said.
Carroll’s office is responsible for all issues of safety and security on all of Fordham’s campuses. This ranges from watching who comes in and out of the gates to weather emergencies to providing transportation for students coming home via subway late at night.
Carroll said his approach centers on proactive prevention of incidents, and that all members of the community are vital to keeping Fordham’s campuses safe.
Preventative measures include vans that park outside the Fordham Road subway station in the Bronx from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to shuttle students back to the Rose Hill campus, security cameras that can be viewed from multiple locations, and a network of communication.
“We proceed on the belief, and I know that it’s correct, that we have very bright young men and women going to school here, and we treat them accordingly,” Carroll said. “We provide them with information in training programs of our students and resident assistants to make sure that we have a good communication flow.
“That not only means that we give information to them, but that they will call us and feel comfortable with us.”
Carroll said Fordham is constantly reviewing their protocol to respond in the unlikely event of an emergency such as campus shooter situation. Carroll’s team participated in an NYPD briefing last month on best practices in the event of a shooter on campus.
While Carroll said the prospect of such an unthinkable event is something no one wants to dwell on, Fordham is prepared. All of Fordham’s security supervisors are former ranking officers from the NYPD. And, he said, they are armed.
“It’s the worst thing that could ever happen. But we are here with an armed guy who’s qualified to take out that shooter, should something happen,” Carroll said.
On a day-to-day basis, the unexpected events Carroll and his team face are more along the lines of inclement weather.
Carroll was forced to cancel an interview for this story to meet with Fordham’s emergency management team to prepare for Winter Storm “Nemo.” The cross-disciplinary team consists of representatives from academic affairs, enrollment services, IT, facilities, campus ministry, and more.
Together, they consider the variables that go into potentially closing campus—how many students would be affected, news from New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, reports from public transportation services, and more.
“We took every piece of objective information from reliable sources, and got the objective analysis from this team,” Carroll said. “We bring together all the key people, and then let a decision flow out of that.”
Looking after the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff at multiple campuses is a huge job, no doubt. Carroll said it’s one he and his team take incredibly seriously—and that parents can rest easy knowing their students are safe.
“Parents who are 3,000 miles away can certainly count on the fact that their sons and daughters are well taken care of,” he said. “There are processes and professional people in place who can take care of them.
“We may not love them as much as you, but we will take care of them just as well.”