President Stuart Rabinowitz, in a letter to the Hofstra community, today announced several new safety initiatives recommended by the Task Force on Safety and Security, including a free overnight shuttle service and additional public safety patrols.
A Message from President Rabinowitz
It has been four months since I addressed our entire community, to assure you that safety and security is our highest priority. Our 240-acre campus is very safe. We have benefited greatly from two independent security audits conducted over the past seven years, which have reviewed every part of our security planning, endorsed most of it, and led to increased security enhancements on campus. We do everything we can to keep our campus safe and secure, and we encourage our students to live on campus, and participate in our many on-campus events.
We continue to work to make the areas adjacent to our campus safer, since many of our students reside in rental housing nearby. While our public safety department does ride through the neighborhood surrounding our campus, they have no jurisdiction off campus. All of our Public Safety Officers undergo regular law enforcement training (and many have a law enforcement background) and they work closely with local law enforcement entities. Our Director of Public Safety, Karen O’Callaghan, former chief of the Nassau County Police Department with nearly thirty years’ experience in law enforcement, is continuing our close cooperation and working partnership with the Nassau County Police and the Village of Hempstead Police Departments which are responsible for enforcement outside our campus. In the last few months, that cooperation has become more critical and I am pleased to say that our partners in Nassau County and the Village of Hempstead have been responsive to our concerns, resulting in increased patrols and other initiatives. Most recently the Nassau County Police announced the arrest of persons charged with robberies in areas outside of our campus.
In addition, I am personally meeting with our County Executive, the Mayor of the Village of Hempstead, government officials and law enforcement leadership, to partner with them in an effort to make our surrounding area as safe and as welcoming for our students and the entire community as possible and to emphasize that safety is our priority.
In May of 2013, to respond to the concerns of the Hofstra community, I convened a Task Force on Safety and Security. The Task Force is chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs, Sandra Johnson, and Director of Public Safety, Karen O’Callaghan, and is comprised of approximately 30 faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and law enforcement officials. To date, three full meetings have been held, with working groups meeting on specific issues, and in addition I have asked my administration to focus on new initiatives to enhance safety. I have already approved recommendations that we are implementing immediately.
- Providing an overnight shuttle service: Beginning this Thursday, October 10, we will run a night-time shuttle service through our campus and the neighborhoods adjacent to campus, where the majority of the students who live off-campus are, with designated pick-up/drop-off points. For the next two weekends (10/10-10/12 and 10/17–10/19 from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.) we will operate a pilot shuttle program as we gauge ridership, the effectiveness of the route, GPS mapping and scheduling. We expect to launch the full 7-day a week night-time shuttle by Monday, October 21. While we are continuing to explore other options, such as a partnership with a local cab company, we believe the addition of two shuttle drivers, an administrator helping to handle calls and questions, dedicated vans and GPS technology, as well as the constant presence of our vans in the surrounding area, will enhance the safety of our neighborhood. The full details will be announced this Wednesday, October 9, including the route and shuttle usage guidelines. We encourage you to use the Night Shuttle and provide us with feedback.
- Additional Public Safety patrols: Many of the recommendations brought to the attention of the Task Force by students, alumni, faculty, and parents included additional Public Safety patrols during evening hours of frequently traveled pathways and the perimeter along the south campus. Over the summer, 2 additional full time public safety officers were hired and assigned to enhance patrols around the perimeter of the south campus and popular pathways through the campus concentrated between 9:00PM and 5:00AM Tuesdays through Saturdays. Additional patrols on weekends on overtime for Hempstead Turnpike and the surrounding area began on move-in weekend.
- Designated walking routes: As a way to better understand foot path patterns, members of the Task Force conducted an evening walk of campus. Following this review, combined with data from lighting surveys conducted by facilities staff, “preferred” pathways going east/west and north/south on both the south and north campus were identified and presented to the Task Force. Work on the pathways has already begun. Additional LED lights will be installed on buildings along the routes and we will begin actively publicizing the “Nightwalks” this semester . Ten new emergency blue light phones are scheduled for installation beginning in November, bringing to a total of 58 emergency phones on campus.
- Increased Lighting along Perimeter Roadways and Parking Lots: In addition, the Task Force recommended that Hofstra work with LIPA to increase lighting along California Ave near the Law School parking lot and that additional lights be added to the Breslin parking lot, the parking lot near the Law School annex and the parking lot near the New Academic Building. In addition, the Task Force recommended that Hofstra work with the County to ensure that streetlights are repaired in a timely manner along Oak Street and that vehicles parking illegally along the street are ticketed and towed as appropriate. We have already begun work to implement these recommendations. In September, new overhead light fixtures were installed and the trees trimmed back on California Avenue, so one of our main roads through campus is very well-lit.
- Increased efforts by local law enforcement to address crime in area surrounding the University As of September 2013, the Nassau County Police Department reported that “in addition to the regular patrol vehicles, the police department is deploying extra uniform and plainclothes officers from the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) and the Criminal Intelligence Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) with an emphasis on the area surrounding Hofstra. They are in both marked and unmarked vehicles.” The Village of Hempstead has pledged additional patrols in the area as well. In addition, all law enforcement groups are using surveillance technology, monitoring bars, establishments, and rental housing to ensure compliance with the law, and working with local businesses to make the area along Hempstead Turnpike as safe as possible.
We have made a substantial investment since May in new hires, in both Public Safety and for the shuttle system, in facilities and technology. The Task Force will continue to meet to monitor the changes and improvements, and we will continue to make the investments necessary to make Hofstra University as secure as it can be.
There is one other initiative that I believe will change our campus and our surrounding area, unrelated to the work of the Task Force but a priority for my administration. Over the past several years, I have publicly advocated for the development of a mix of retail and entertainment options at the Nassau HUB, believing that a comprehensive mix would make the area more attractive to our students and provide them with safe nighttime and weekend options. While I am pleased that a developer has been chosen, and I believe that a revitalized coliseum is good for the area, the future of the entire development, the space around the Coliseum, remains uncertain.
Therefore, my administration has been in serious talks with developers who work with universities to create “college towns” right on or near their campus. Models for this exist in Princeton, the University of Connecticut, and Maryland, to name a few. We believe a development of restaurants and retail in the northeast corner of campus, near the Arena, would provide our community with a number of options and provide students with entertainment right here on campus. There is much to work out and we must also investigate if this can be economically feasible but I am very hopeful that we will continue the transformation of our campus. In the coming months, we will be looking for your feedback on what “Downtown Hofstra” might look like, and I hope you will work with me on this exciting new initiative.
Thank you for your concern, your feedback and your cooperation as we work together. The Hofstra community is a great community, and together, we can make our campus and our community even better.