By: Fernando Vargas Hernández
Due to an incident with a professor who was stabbed last August 10, 2014 in the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez Campus, the student population and administration are considering alternatives for ensuring a safe environment at the UPRM. A press conference was held on October 7, 2014 with the director of campus security Carlos Marrero, director of Quality of life, Gustavo Cortinas, office student representative of the Administration Board, Marcus Ramos, and Lieutenant Barbosa to discuss issues and possible measures concerning the state of security at UPRM.
Gustavo Cortinas stated that students have expressed concerns about campus security as well as doubts in regards to the effectivity of recent access precautions. University Chancellor John Fernández Van Cleve ensured a meeting with campus security would be held in order to reinforce security measures on campus. He affirmed that since last year campus security hired new officers and that security measures have increased, and that he’d be contacting municipal and state police to further ensure criminal prevention on campus. The Chancellor also talked about limiting evening time vehicle traffic to students and campus employees, hoping to control access into campus as well as filtering people to limit access to only those who need to be in Campus facilities and keep those who don’t outside or off campus.
Carlos Marrero explained how modifications on campus security approaches might affect student activity. Students will now be forced to find other spaces for their extracurricular academic endeavors; a challenging task considering municipal limitations. The best alternative would then be refining the plan of action to fit overall student needs, Marrero explained.
Illumination at campus is not appropriate. Marcus Marrero described a study the General Student Council conducted where they walk at night looking for broken light posts, “based on that study, over 300 light bulbs are out of order.”
Fixing this problem is one of the many ways campus administration could effectively address student concern without sacrificing necessary academic activities that usually take place in the evening hours. Lieutenant Barbosa also suggested cameras be placed in areas near laboratories, which hold expensive equipment. Gustavo Cortina add that poorly illuminated areas should benefit from strict vigilance since they are more susceptible to criminal activity. An online poll conducted by the UPRM administration showed that over a thousand students are in favor of the installation of cameras.
Lieutenant Barbosa said previous security measures such as the emergency turrets were considered to be effective. “These emergency turrets alarmed the community with the press of a button and send a notification of the incident location directly to the Campus police department.” Maintenance of these turrets was discontinued due to a cut on funds of the UPR
According a to a news story published by El Nuevo Día on 2013 the director of security of the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras, believes it is not up to campus security to ensure the safety and well-being of students. “That’s the police’s job,” he said, to which Carlos Marrero disagree. He said at the press conference that it job to do so. “We are a town” he affirmed. He then explained that the UPRM is a community where everybody can work together and benefit everyone.
On campus crime has decreased, and the problem is that students don’t feel safe outside of campus because of lack of vigilant force. An increase in criminal activity in zones mostly populated by students may be the primary factor behind this way of thinking. This insecurity among students is a direct reflection of the general opinion of citizens across the island, who believe not much is being done by the police to protect the people of Puerto Rico, explained Carlos Marrero.
Police force has failed to carry out effective watches to prevent criminal acts against students. However a decrease in agents, there’s confidence amongst officials that the number of available police officers is enough. “According to data collected by from 2010 up to now, student’s nightly activities, including both academic and social, puts them in a position in which they are vulnerable to illicit acts,” said Gustavo Cortinas.
Marcus Ramos implied that it is vital for there to be a comprehensive plan on campus to promote more efficient security measures at UPRM. This plan would have to keep in mind the needs of students and the urgency behind their pleas for improvement on previous plans of action.
From left to right: Marcus Ramos, Gustavo Cortinas, Carlos Marrero and Lieutenant Barbosa
“Apuñalan a profesor en un edificio del RUM”
“Más seguridad para los universitarios”
“Inician medidas de seguridad en el RUM”