Eastern’s Police Department Named Among Top 25 in Nation

Eastern’s Department of Public Safety.

Written by Ed Osborn

The Department of Public Safety at Eastern Connecticut State University has been named one of the top 25 college and university police departments in the United States for its efforts to improve campus safety. Eastern was ranked fourth on the list of 25, which included such institutions as Oregon State University, Indiana University and the University of Houston. Brown University in Rhode Island, ranked 19th, was the only other New England institution that made the top 25 list.

“Each department on the list has shown outstanding dedication to the improvement of campus and student safety at their institution,” said Linda Shaw, director of Safe Campus, the organization conducting the recognition program.

The Safe Campus list recognizes outstanding achievement by administrative departments on college and university campuses. Each department was nominated based on its efforts to improve campus safety. All 4,706 U.S. accredited higher-education institutions were eligible.

Officers from Eastern’s police department host a table at the University’s health expo.

Safe Campus’s mission is to improve the overall safety and security of U.S. college and university students. Selection to the “Top 25” list was made by the Safe Campus Advisory Board, a committee of senior-level university administrators from around the nation. Criteria included creation of major programs to improve campus safety, especially those that can be replicated on other campuses; development of department procedures that contribute to campus safety and security; implementation of safety policies that are promoted across campus; and the demonstration of quantitative results that demonstrate improvements in campus safety.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority,” said Eastern Connecticut State University President Elsa Núñez, “so I am gratified to see our campus police department recognized as a national leader in promoting and improving campus safety. The leadership provided by the Department of Public Safety to ensure security and safety on our campus has ranged from collaborations with local authorities to improving campus security systems to educating our students on how to support a ‘safe campus culture.’ Not only have we seen a reduction in campus crime statistics, members of our campus community clearly understand that maintaining a safe campus is everyone’s responsibility. It starts with the excellent relationship our campus police department has built with Eastern students, faculty and staff.”

Officer David DeNunzio leads a student through a drunk-driving simulation.

One example of a program initiated by Eastern’s Department of Public Safety to improve campus safety was its initiative to address underage drinking, which educates freshmen on the risks involved. From 2009 to 2016, alcohol-related incidents on Eastern’s campus referred for disciplinary action declined by 89 percent. The Eastern campus is also equipped with 386 high-resolution surveillance cameras, which have helped reduce potential criminal activity; statistics show that there have been no robberies or burglaries on Eastern’s campus the past three years.

Eastern is a member of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, which received a $750,000 grant in 2015 from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat violence against women. Eastern’s public safety officers received training in a number of areas related to sexual and domestic violence as part of the grant. Eastern was also one of six schools in the nation selected by the Department of Homeland Security in 2013 to participate in its Campus Resilience Program, which vastly improved the campus’ emergency-response tools and resources. Eastern has since established a Campus Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), composed of campus personnel who are trained to be first responders.

Within the local Willimantic community, Eastern’s police department was a partner with other organizations on two important initiatives – the Community Life Improvement Project (CLIP) and the Windham/Eastern Community Action Network (W/E CAN) – to improve student relationships with residents in local neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, Eastern’s hometown of Willimantic was named to the list of the 50 safest college towns in America, based on crime statistics. The list was composed of towns of more than 15,000 residents that are home to a four-year college or university, and was compiled by Safewise.com, a security and safety analytics company.