The Boston University Police Department held its first open house Wednesday night as part of its efforts to increase visibility.
About 40 students took a tour of the BUPD station, located at 32 Harry Agganis Way.
The open house was meant to generate a “friendly environment” where students could interact with officers, said Deputy Director of Public Safety Scott Paré.
“All too often students are victim of crimes, and they just don’t feel comfortable contacting the police department for one reason or another,” Paré said. “We want them to see us an ally. I think a lot of the students often see the police as an enemy.”
BUPD Account Executive Mallory Shelbourne, a College of Communication senior, said she helped increase transparency on campus and online, specifically through social media.
Shelbourne described BUPD’s initiative as an ongoing process.
“They don’t want to be the police officers you are afraid of and avoiding on the weekend,” she said. “That’s not their goal.”
Paré said the BUPD Twitter account has been successful, accruing more than 900 followers. A number of computers were set up at the open house to encourage students to “like” the BUPD Facebook page.
Other social media initiatives included a live Twitter chat with Chief Thomas Robbins and Paré March 6.
“Obviously, we want everything to be transparent in everything we do,” he said.
A number of students seem intimidated by the officers as authority figures, said COM junior Samantha Trachten, account executive for BUPD.
“They are [here] to enforce, but people shouldn’t fear that,” Trachten said.
Trachten said social media is the best place to inform students.
“Social media gets the information out there, gets the name out there,” she said. “Students are on social media,” she said.
Nora Lankhof, a College of Arts and Science freshman, said the open house was unhelpful because it did not help her get to know the officers.
“It was pretty general,” she said. “I didn’t expect much from coming here. I came for the mug shots.”
Lankhof said she was not aware that BUPD has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
COM junior Amanda Sabga said although social media is a useful way to reach students, many students may be intimidated to connect with police online.
“It can a be a little intimidating if you ‘like’ them on Facebook and [you figure], ‘Oh
BUPD is going to know what we’re doing,’” Sabga said.
Shakeela Najjar, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences senior, said BUPD’s visibility on campus is limited.
“You only hear about them when something big happens in an email or something, but in the everyday normal stuff you don’t hear about them,” Najjar said. “They’re just there. They don’t talk to us or anything.”
Najjar said he feels no police officer on campus is recognizable.
“We only have a select few, so they should be more recognizable,” she said.
Paré said social media initiatives and scheduled events should give students more insight into the role BUPD plays on campus.
“I hope we make some friends with the students,” he said. “I hope . . . they get a chance to understand what we do in some sense and break down some of the barriers that we have.”