By: Jaisline M. Olmeda Rivera
Security issues were discussed last Wednesday, October 8 at about 12:30 p.m. at a conference held in the Carlos E. Chardón Building at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. Four panelists of different departments debated about the causes, effects and solutions of the security on campus. Because of the most recent criminal events recorded in the UPRM, the security cameras implementation was one the primordial aspects of the conference.
The panelists were Gustavo Cortina Rodríguez, director of the Quality of Life Office. Carlos Marrero, director of the University Police Department. Lieutenant Jorge Barbosa, member of the University Police Department; and Jesiel Díaz Colón, president of the General Council of Students of the UPRM.
After the electrical engineering professor, Eduardo Ortiz Rivera, was assaulted and stabbed at Stefani building, the past August 10, 2014, the rector of the UPRM, John Fernández Van Cleve, decided to increase the security measures on campus. By increasing the number of guards during the 24 hours of the day, closuring gates and considering the installation of security cameras around campus.
A few weeks ago, the Student Council sent UPRM students a survey about the security cameras implementation; 88 percent of respondents approved the installation of these around different areas of the campus. However, General Council President Díaz Colón said, “that the security cameras alone are not going to function in the security program.”
Marrero, on the other hand, said he was pleased with the idea of cameras around campus, but clarified that “the most important part of any security plan is the human part, which is the one who executes actions. We can have the best tools, but if we do not know how to execute, we are not going to function correctly.”
Marrero also mentioned his concern about the decrease of the security officers during the past years, “in 2006 the university guard had 72 officers, but now in 2014, it has only 58.” Even with this limitation, guards are on duty 24 hours a day at strategic locations around the campus.
Gustavo Cortina Rodríguez, explained that “according to the 2013 statistics, the buildings with the higher incidence of criminal acts are Sánchez-Hidalgo, Enfermería and Stefani. Also, robberies and criminal events tend to be more frequent after night.”
Cortina Rodríguez wants to help improve campus safety. He also offered the services of the Quality of Life office to students.
On the other hand, the General Council of Students is involved in the implementation of other security measures to prevent criminal events in campus. Additionally to the security cameras, the creation of a security plan, escort services provided by the University Guard, nocturnal trolley services and the concentration of nocturnal classes in only one building are some of the ideas they are working with.
Even when the security cameras have the support of a significant sector of the university community, the implementation of these in the campus is not certain. “The cameras maintenance has to be ensured, unfortunately, there is no culture of physical facilities maintenance at the UPRM or at the UPR system at large,” explained the president of the GCS.
In the end, panelists agreed that the most important aspect to create a safer environment on campus is the human intervention supported by helping tools and the students’ self-preservation. As lieutenant Barbosa advised, “you have to preserve your life.”