Western's new top cop plans campus safety initiatives
Families can still help keep their college-age students safe on campus, even if they live far away, said Randy Stegmeier Western's new police chief and director of public safety.
Stegmeier, who became Western's top cop Jan. 14, said families can "coach" their kids with common-sense crime prevention tips.At more than 16,000 students, faculty, staff and visitors, Stegmeier and his 14 officers are responsible for a community as large as a small city. The department also includes parking services and the university lock shop.
The new chief said he plans to step up the department's crime prevention and education efforts in the coming months, with talks at new-student orientations as well as with campus groups.
"We want to become much more active in that educational piece," Stegmeier said.
Former assistant chief of the University of Washington Police Department, Stegmeier also hopes to launch a "Safe Campus" initiative that would include a central phone number for people to call with campus safety concerns. If people see someone whose behavior might pose a serious safety threat, for example, or if they know of someone on campus who has been threatened with violence, they can call the number, Stegmeier said. A trained "threat assessment team" made up of staff members from throughout campus, will investigate to see if more action needs to be taken, he said, or try to get help to the people involved.
But it's the more mundane issues, such as traffic safety and property crime, that take up more time for Stegmeier and his staff.For example, campus officers strictly enforce traffic safety laws, he said. Driving just a few miles over the speed limit can be very dangerous in an area with so many pedestrians - particularly those distracted by cell phones and iPods.
Stegmeier came to Western after 30 years in law enforcement. A Selah native, he was part of the University of Washington Police Department for 28 years, then spent two years as commander of the Washington State Police Academy.
Most recently, he was director of three departments at Shoreline Community College: safety and security, facilities, and capital projects.
He soon realized that his real love was in police work, he said, particularly on college campuses.
"Virtually everyone here has a real purpose in their life and they're all about doing positive things," Stegmeier said. "That's a luxury most cities don't have."
Learn more about WWU police at www.ps.wwu.edu.
Good advice: Some stay-safe tips for students on campus
Stegmeier offers several tips for families to help their students avoid becoming victims of crime on campus:
- Take an inventory of all valuables, including electronics and bicycles. Record their serial numbers and other identifying information and, if possible, engrave the student’s driver’s license number on them.
- If students are living on campus, discourage them from bringing a car to school. Car break-ins and thefts are a problem on campus, Stegmeier said. If students must bring cars, consider car alarms or steering wheel locks as crime deterrents.
- Remind them to stick to well-lighted routes when walking at night, and walk with buddies if possible. The “Green Coat” service is available to escort students, too.