URBANA, Illinois – After a busy year of new initiatives during the 2022-23 school year, the University of Illinois Police Department is looking to maintain positive momentum toward keeping the campus area safe into the new fall semester.
University Police expanded their technological tools during the last year by making greater use of automated license-plate readers and security cameras. It also completed a temporary expansion of its jurisdiction into off-campus areas of Campustown by entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Champaign to take primary jurisdiction of an area previously served by the Champaign Police Department.
“All of these tools have us in a very good place to maintain safety in more of the areas where our campus community members study, work, live and enjoy their free time,” said U. of I. Police Chief Alice Cary. “Officers do an exceptional job of being visible and available, but it is impossible for them to be everywhere all at once – technological tools help to deter crime and generate investigative leads in areas where we cannot always deploy human resources.”
The agreement with the City also enabled University Police to bring on seven new police officers. In addition, University Police introduced four Community Service Officer positions – unarmed Public Safety employees who are available to take non-emergency reports for incidents like theft, vandalism, lost property and more. That allows sworn police officers to spend more time on patrol and available to engage in proactive crime prevention activity.
UIPD’s mental health response team – named Response, Evaluation and Crisis Help (REACH) – also expanded by one over the summer with the addition of another Crisis Responder. Crisis Responders are not police officers. They are professionals with a background in social work, and they patrol with police officers to respond to mental health-related emergencies.
The additional Crisis Responder allows the department to cover more calls with a social work professional on scene.
“Mental health-related calls have been increasing over the last decade, and this is pronounced at the beginning of the year when a lot of our students are away from home, some of them for the first time,” Cary said. “Our REACH team is being used as a model at departments across the country because of its innovative nature and effectiveness, and its expansion allows for better outcomes for our students and community members who are experiencing mental health challenges.”
The Division of Public Safety is currently hiring Student Patrol Officers who, among other duties, provide the free SafeWalks service for students, faculty and staff who need to travel at night in the campus area. Walking in groups of three or more and using well-lit, high-traffic routes is one of the best ways to protect yourself, and Student Patrol officers are available after 9 p.m. to walk with anyone who needs a safety escort.
Public Safety has also brought back its popular Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) self-defense course for women. R.A.D. teaches risk reduction techniques and basic physical skills for self-defense. The fall class filled up quickly, but students can join the mailing list to be notified when the spring class is available.