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Campus Safety updates for fall 2023

Since Chief Safety Officer Keith Squires joined the U in 2022, he has reorganized campus security and police; doubled the number of victim advocates in the department; hired a new crime data analyst, compliance director and Clery Act coordinator; and created new online dashboards and a crime “heat map” to track real-time incidents.

At the same time, Squires and U Police administrators are on a long-term outreach campaign across campus and in the community to raise awareness of the changes.

In a recent report to U Board of Trustee members on Oct. 10, Squires shared data-driven measures his team in the University Department of Public Safety are enacting to make campus a safe environment for all faculty, staff and students.

“All members of this department have worked diligently to create one of the most transparent law enforcement departments in the state and probably across the country,” Squires said. “Everything that we’re doing, if there’s a problem, if there’s a serious issue, we want to be aware of it and we want to be working to resolve it and prevent it from happening in the future.”

Data-driven safety measures

A new Crime Data Analyst position has been created and Nikol Mitchell, previously with West Jordan City Police, was hired to deliver real-time information on campus crimes, suspects, and possible patterns.

Every Monday morning, the department command staff join a conference call where they discuss all updates since the last report. Mitchell is closely tied in with the Utah’s Statewide Information & Analysis Center (SIAC), as well as working with federal partners at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

Additionally, thanks in part to her analysis, a common misconception in our community has been proven false. The misconception?

That U police and security personnel primarily deal with university-affiliated individuals, i.e., faculty, staff and/or students. In fact, the data revealed that approximately 81% of U police service calls were related to non-university affiliated individuals visiting or being cared for at the hospital.

Transparency and reporting

The university’s commitment to transparency was underscored by the creation of the University Safety Dashboard, a public website providing real-time crime information. New instances are usually added within 24 hours of being reported. This initiative aims to keep the community informed and engaged in campus safety. Additionally, the U’s annual safety report, a requirement under the Federal Cleary Act, provides detailed insights into safety plans and incidents.

The following graph compares the University of Utah campus to comparable universities across the nation as well as some mid-sized cities in Utah that are close to the campus population base. While there are differences the total enrollments and population sizes, in student and resident demographic data and differing laws in other states, this data illustrates that the University of Utah is not alone in the challenges it faces when striving to keep its population safe.

Support and Collaboration

The university’s commitment to supporting victims was further emphasized with the addition of victim advocates. These advocates work closely with the investigation unit and supported 147 cases in 2022 alone. The nature of prevalent cases, such as harassment, stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault, was highlighted.

Increased training for security personnel (non-police officers)

 The department is also focused on providing the highest level of training for its non-sworn security personnel. A training sergeant position was recently created, focused solely on building a consistent, dynamic, and relevant training program that will incorporate state-approved training curriculum for campus security officers.

New Curriculum Topic Examples (not exhaustive)

  • Effective Communication
  • Crowd Management & Crowd Control
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Documentation & Report Writing
  • Ethics
  • Fire Safety and Fire Watch
  • ID Verification
  • Patrol Techniques
  • Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

By 2024, each campus security officer will be certified by the Division of Professional Licensing (DOPL) in the state of Utah. Which is a high standard to meet.