By Loraine A. Más Vayas
On Tuesday October 7, 2014 a group of students from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus organized a press conference regarding the issue of public safety on campus. Since the beginning of the semester, the story of an engineering professor who was assaulted and injured during a robbery in a UPRM building August 10, 2014 on brought attention to campus security.
Panelists Mr. Gustavo Cortinas, Director of the Quality of Life Office at the UPRM, Mr. Carlos Marrero, Director of the Campus Police University Guard at UPRM, Mr. Marcus J. Ramos Cintrón, Student Council Representative to the Administrative Board, and Lieutenant Barbosa answered various questions from students regarding the subject of security on UPRM grounds.
The topics of new measures taken, budgets and official UPRM security policies were discussed. Cortinas said: “The law says that we should be able to read a newspaper outside on campus at night”. A simple task which hasn’t been realistic for some time on campus.
Security cameras are one of the central topics in the press conference. Mr. Ramos explained how the policies were implanted and established regarding security cameras, but the actual action of placing cameras is a far stretch at the moment because of the university’s fiscal situation. Gustavo explained how the security camera is a security measure considered at the moment, but because of the upcoming recession by 2 to 5 percent of the university’s budget, their installation is not possible at the moment.
Lieutenant Barbosa, who has been working as a UPRM guard for 25 years, that security cameras could be not a permanent solution but a method which effectively decreased criminal activity, if used correctly.
Because of the incidents which took place early on in the semester various new security measures were implemented. For example, allowing only one entrance into the campus, which has restricted access granted by the guards. This has been criticized for being an obstruction for some students. Mr. Marrero argued that “Comfort can never be on top of the security”. That is, sacrifices must be made to ensure public safety.
Students understand that the measures taken although may disrupt somehow their usual accustomed daily routes, it is done for their well-being, which is the biggest priority at the moment for all campus officials.
Another security measure which was implemented around ten years ago was the emergency totems found in certain areas around campus. These totems were greatly efficient when in use and had a direct line into the Campus Security Office.
However after a few years because of the maintenance costs and school budgets running lower they aren’t in use today.
Regarding the upkeep of these totems, Marrero and Barbosa assured they will begin maintenance in these again and will be available for usage around campus again soon. Upkeep of campus lighting is also a matter discussed, which students showed a concern in a safety perspective.
Ramos and Cortinas spoke about an exercise done by the Student Council and again by the Quality of Life Office: they went around campus and counted around 300 lighting installations which weren’t working properly. This issue is also a result of a maintenance and upkeep issue around campus, which in this case is a safety matter as well.
The overall press conference offered an insight into relevant and important safety topics students were specifically concerned with. Panelists reassured their audience that measures are being taken and will continue to be implemented and improved to ensure safety throughout the UPRM campus.