Changes help CSUN police evolve

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After implementing a series of improvements, CSUN police officials continue to plot their future, with new programs and new facilities a big part of the plan.

In addition to improvements such as a new police canine unit, putting together crime prevention brochures, and giving presentations to various campus departments, CSUN police also has a new headquarters in the works, which broke ground earlier this semester.

In just more than three years, the department has also brought in a new East Coast police chief, a full-time spokesperson, and expanded its operation in the dorms, where a high percentage of several categories of campus crime have historically occurred.

“We’ve really evolved,” said Christina Villalobos, CSUN police spokesperson. “It’s not unusual for other college departments to share space (and) parking garages – so to be building a 28,000 square-foot (facility) is pretty remarkable. It shows the school’s commitment to us and the campus’ safety.”

Once the new building is completed near the intersection of Prairie Street and Darby Avenue, the current department offices, which are located in Building 14 of the University Park Apartments, will be converted back into dorm apartments.

At that same transition time, a garage outside Building 14 will be transformed into a fully equipped sub-station so the department can maintain a presence in the dorms.

“By the time we leave here, that will already have been converted,” said Villalobos, who is in charge of community relations in the Department of Public Safety, in addition to being special assistant to Chief of Police Anne Glavin.

Melissa Giles, associate director for residential life in Student Housing, said she does not feel that residents in the dorms will experience a less-effective presence once the police department completes its move to the central part of campus.

“I don’t think (they will see a difference),” Giles said. “The community housing (police) team will still be there. How we are patrolled will still be the same.”

CSUN police officers are trained like any other members of local law enforcement, but they only patrol a one-mile radius around CSUN in addition to the campus itself.

“I don’t think students realize that we aren’t ‘Rent-a-Cops,'” Villalobos said. “We are an official police department. We have two detectives and 24 officers of all levels, including a corporal, a sergeant, a lieutenant (and) a captain.”

Eric Noyes, senior psychology major, thinks the CSUN PD could be more visible.

“I don’t think most of the students on campus realize we have police on campus,” Noyes said. “Right now (police offices) are in dorm rooms, so I think it is better for them to have the new facilities. It will help them be more visible.”

“I almost never see (the police) on campus,” Noyes said. “I see them in the dorms a lot and driving around at night. (In the dorms), they are very visible.”

Each of the 24 officers is placed into one of four patrol categories: foot, bicycle, vehicle and motorcycle. Each officer works a 12-hour shift – either 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., or vice versa – and the officers can switch between the various patrol approaches during the same shift. The benefit of the multi-dimensional approach, as Villalobos described it, was that it allows officers to approach different kinds of areas of campus with easier access. Due to the long shifts, an officer will work four shifts one week and then three shifts the next week on an alternating basis.

Chief Glavin said she would continue to help the CSUN PD strive for improvement. Glavin began her term as chief of police in July 2002.

“Our goal is to be the best in the CSU system,” Glavin said. “We still have a ways to go, but we are well on our way. Other CSUs are trying to emulate us and I like that.”

Stan Skipworth, captain of the police department at Long Beach State, said he views things a little differently.

“For us, Northridge is not a model. With the type of settings we have, we don’t try to emulate them,” Skipworth said. “Our student body is larger. We have different traffic issues, and we are less of a commuter campus.”

Skipworth also said that all the police chiefs have meetings together where they plan events and share resources, training items and equipment.

“I want us to be very approachable, and the (CSUN) community can expect everything from us,” Glavin said. “We do what we do with distinction and excellence, and because of that our visibility has gone up.”

Giles said she is very pleased with the department and finds them to be very approachable.

“Our housing staff has meetings with the department every other week,” she said. “Communication is very on. (CSUN PD) continues to be wonderful. We appreciate what they do for our community.”

The department is planning its 9-1-1 campaign, during which flyers and posters will be circulated around campus to explain that when a person dials 9-1-1 on a campus telephone he or she is directly connected to CSUN police, not local police.

“CSUN is like a small city,” Villalobos said. “(President) Koester is like the mayor, the students are the citizens, and the dorms are like houses. We are committed to keeping our city safe.”

Jason Tanner can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.