Safety at 2014 Boston Marathon among topics of conversation at SG town hall meeting

Prominent members of the Boston University administration and BU Police Department met with BU Student Government Wednesday to allow students to voice concerns about campus safety, crime prevention and the upcoming Boston Marathon at a town hall meeting.

“There’s going to be a larger police presence no matter where you’re watching from,” said BUPD Chief Tom Robbins, regarding the marathon. “We’re going to have secured areas, one is at the beginning of the race and one is at the end of the race, where you’re going to be searched.”

Robbins, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, Assistant Dean of Students John Battaglino, Associate Director of Residence Life for Administration Woodrow Freese and BUPD Deputy Director of Public Safety Scott Paré spoke about issues they saw crucial to keeping the BU campus safe.

The town hall meeting, which was attended by approximately 10 students, took place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Student Government Office, located in the basement of the George Sherman Union.

Richa Kaul and Alexander Golob also attended, the two SG Presidential candidates who are facing off in the upcoming Spring 2014 Executive Board elections.

“We are thrilled whenever we are able to have this dialogue,” Battaglino said. “It’s good to have these issues brought to our attention so that they can be resolved.”

After the 2013 Boston marathon bombing last year, the upcoming race proved a topic of major concern. 

“We want to give it the same atmosphere [as before the bombing],” Robbins said.  “It’s fun, it’s a world-class event.”

BUPD said they would prevent participation by “bandit runners,” or those who have not signed up for the marathon. They also said backpacks would be banned from the race, members of the National Guard would be attending the race in uniform and underage drinking would not be tolerated.

“Certainly, the community came together, but the community still needs to heal,” Robbins said. “We understand as a community that people will be going through tough times.”

Elmore said BU will provide programs in the upcoming weeks designed to facilitate that healing process.

“Our behavior medicine and also our counsel resources will be available for people to just come in and talk,” he said.

Another major topic of discussion was the issue of crime prevention and response on and near campus.

“There might be this false perception that the campus is very unsafe,” Robbins said. “But according to statistical analysis, the crime rate is actually very low.”

Robbins advised students to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity they notice. 

“If you see something, say something,” Battaglino said. “That way BU and BUPD can respond to the issue.”

Alcoholic consumption or other illicit activity should not play a part in determining whether or not to report a crime, Paré said. Instead, he said safety should be students’ primary concern.

Paré also explained that BUPD has its own smartphone app, which, while it should not be used in times of emergency, enables students to report tips, commend officers or contact specific departments.

Kaul, of SG election slate BU’s Push to Start, and Golob, of SG election slate TrueBU, explained what improvements they believe should be made to BU’s current campus safety practices.

“Students have safety concerns, and what student government administration needs to work on is awareness on how to report those concerns and who to go to,” said Kaul, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Students have concerns but they are not sure who to go to or what the process is.”

Golob said late-night safe havens would serve as useful and inexpensive ways to utilize public spaces around BU to make the campus safer.

“The idea behind it is that we take advantage of the current infrastructure,” said Golob, a College of Fine Arts sophomore. “Shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, you name it, and we label them as a safe space so that people have somewhere safe to go when it is dark out or when you may even possibly be alone.”

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