Safety first: Pitt police talk crime awareness with students


Demonstration on fingerprinting. Courtesy of DaVaughn Vincent-Bryan, Assistant Director for Residential Programming

By James Watkins / For The Pitt News

While some students admitted that the smell of free pizza lured them into the William Pitt Union Assembly Room Monday afternoon, most stopped by to learn more about campus safety.

The Student Government Board and Pitt Public Safety and Emergency Management hosted the Spring Safety Fair Monday, which had an attendance of about 50 faculty and community members at any given time between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Attendees milled around the room to engage and learn about safety organizations and resources around campus.

Though Pitt spokesperson Joe Miksch said the event had been planned for a while, it was especially timely in light of the 13 violent crimes that have occurred in the Oakland area since December 2016, according to Pitt police crime logs. This number includes five aggravated assaults and three robberies, and is in addition to nearly 30 robberies and burglaries that have plagued Oakland since October.

Most recently, on Jan. 25, a man was shot on the corner of Hamlet Street and the Boulevard of the Allies. The victim walked into Magee-Womens Hospital for treatment.  

Both Pitt police and city police searched for suspects in an armed robbery at Mckee Place Jan. 27, when one of the victims was assaulted with the butt of a firearm.

Pitt Police Commander Robert Holler said these numbers were not abnormal for the Oakland area over the course of a few months.

The Pitt News’ crime logs — which correspond with Pitt Police crime logs — did not track any violent crime during January and February of last year.

“We try to stay as diligent as possible, but there’s no way to prevent every crime,” Holler said. “We’ve bumped up our patrol numbers in the evenings, but the best way to deter crime is to make sure you are aware of where you are on campus.”

Organizations including Technology Services and the Center for Victims — a non-profit organization that assists victims of crimes in Pittsburgh —  offered safety tips for personal electronics and contact info for potential crime victims at their respective tables. In addition, six tables for the Pitt Police Department, including a booth for canine police work and stations handing out general information, such as how to contact the department through social media, were lined up around the edges of the assembly room.

Angela Radack, assistant to the associate vice chancellor of public safety and emergency management at the University and coordinator for the event, said students often aren’t armed with the kind of knowledge they need in an area as deceptively large as Oakland.

“I think some students don’t realize that Oakland is a city, and that they need to remember that when thinking about safety,” she said. “It’s important to let students know about the organizations that don’t get as much attention, such as [the Graduate School of] Public Health or Technology Services.”

While the Pitt Police have not given any further details on how they’ve stepped up patrols in Oakland, representatives on Monday said students should be alert at all times.

“It’s much easier to avoid danger if you have your eyes up and open to what is going on around you, and if you notice anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to let the Pitt police know about it,” Holler said.

Deputy Chief Holly Lamb of North Fayette said students should also keep distractions to a minimum when walking the streets of Oakland.

“Students walk around on their phones and have their earbuds in around campus,” she said. “In order to truly be aware, you have to tear yourself away from that while you are out and about.”

Sophomore Yue Chen came to the event after seeing flyers posted around campus. Though she came mostly for the free swag and the OCC credit, she said she could use the extra information.

“I feel kind of comfortable on campus, but not extremely,” Chen said. “I think it’s above average for a college in terms of safety.”

Neuroscience sophomore Satya Yaramati thought the fair provided her with more information about how to be safe than she knew as a first-year student.

“I was interested in coming to this and learning about the different organizations and resources we have at our disposal, since I felt the school didn’t give us quite enough information about it during my [first] year,” she said.

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