As the fall semester approaches, Temple rolls out a host of new … – The Philadelphia Inquirer

With the start of the fall semester just 2½ weeks away, Temple University is planning to roll out increased security measures, as safety continues to be a challenge in its North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Nearly 500 new cameras are on order for both the main and health sciences campus, more bike and foot patrols will be employed, and an improved safety app with new features is now available. There are also plans over the course of the semester to add technology that will detect the presence of guns in and around campus and read license plates, said Jennifer Griffin, who is about to begin her second year as Temple’s vice president of public safety.

“It detects the shape of a gun, sends an alarm to a security operation center that looks at it, validates it and then calls our dispatch center immediately,” Griffin said. “We would then dispatch police to that location.” It would be used in hotspots and areas with lots of foot traffic, she said.

» READ MORE: Temple says violent crime in its patrol zone is down, while it announces next safety steps

The gun detection effort is not new to Philadelphia. SEPTA also last fall began testing artificial-intelligence surveillance that could detect guns within seconds of being drawn.

Earlier this week, a Temple student was the victim of a carjacking near campus. The episode occurred early Sunday morning in the 1500 block of Fontain Street in the Temple police patrol zone. Five juveniles wearing black hoodies and ski masks approached the student and took her car, wallet and cellphone, according to Temple police.

Philadelphia and Temple police are continuing to investigate.

Temple’s fall semester is scheduled to start Aug. 28, with students moving in a week earlier.

“I am feeling optimistic and hopeful,” said Temple President Joanne A. Epps. “I think we have made this place as welcoming and as safe of an environment as one could do.”

» READ MORE: Temple should lead a collective effort to make North Philly safer, says long-awaited report

But she said it’s about more than policing. To that effort, Temple plans in September to open an on-campus “hub” on Broad Street for any member of the surrounding community to visit and get help with anything from job fairs to mental health to legal services, she said. The university will employ “navigators” whose job it will be to connect the community member with the agency that can help, she said.

“We need the city to thrive,” Epps said. “We have to invest in the community and this is our investment.”

Also next week, Epps and City Council President Darryl Clarke will kick off a new partnership safety zone, a recommendation that came out of a security audit on the university released last spring. The group will include representatives from city offices, police and Temple.

Safety concerns around the campus escalated last February after on-duty Temple officer Christopher Fitzgerald, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, was shot to death near campus. But concerns had been mounting even before that, following the death of student Samuel Collington, who was fatally shot in the chest in November 2021 during a carjacking near campus. Some parents had even decided to hire their own private security to watch over their children and formed a group to push for greater safety efforts.

Some of those parents recently met with Griffin and other Temple representatives to share their ideas and hear what the university had planned.

“We were for the most part pleasantly surprised that some of the larger areas that we wanted to address are at least starting to take effect,” said Fadia Halma, parent of two Temple students, an undergraduate and a graduate student.

She cited the new safety app and a list of landlords in the university’s police patrol zone that maintain proper lighting and security and are deemed quality housing. The university still needs to make more progress, including hiring more officers, she said.

“You can’t change it overnight,” said Halma, who is a regional director in community and economic development for the state. “But I’m a little bit more hopeful for this fall than I was for last fall.”

She said parents still plan to employ some private security to patrol in critical, off-campus areas where students live. Fadia is co-chair of the Temple University Safety Advocates, a group that formed in the aftermath of Collington’s death. One of her daughters was friends with Collington.

Halma said children of members in the group love Temple and want to stay.

“So it was how can I help instead of complaining,” she said. “How can we make the area better.”

Temple has acknowledged that safety concerns have contributed to a decline in enrollment which this fall is projected to drop from last year by about 2,800 students, or 8%, to just under 31,000 undergraduates and graduate students.

In June, Temple reported that violent crime in its police patrol zone had decreased over the last five months, compared with the same period last year. At the same time, the university noted improvements in police equipment, changes in department organization and other measures being taken by the department and the city in response to a campus safety audit released in April. Some of the efforts were made possible with a $1.7 million state grant the university received in March.

Also new this fall will be 24-hour walking escorts on both the main and health science campus, as well as walking escorts at night for the Center City campus, Griffin said. Eighteen of the university’s code-blue phones will be equipped by the end of August with 360-degree cameras, she said.

The goal is to have all of the new cameras for other areas installed this school year, she said.

University garages and gates will be closed after regular business hours, with restricted access. And the university is upgrading officers’ cell phones with a new system to take complaints and log information, which will help to identify hot spots and allocate resources, she said.

The TUSafe app is available with new features including a “one-touch panic button, [shuttle] maps and more options to interface with Temple to request walking escorts, report a crime tip virtually and add campus maps,” Griffin said.

It replaces another app that Temple had used since 2022 and will continue features that were available in that app, including the ability to talk with or call Temple police or 911 or start a virtual safety walk.

The university also has reached agreement on upgraded contract terms with the police officers union that will allow for better recruitment and retention of police officers, Griffin said.

“I’m encouraged that we are paying our police officers a comparable salary to our [Philadelphia Police Department] partners, who we continually collaborate with, especially the 22nd District to patrol our 1-square-mile area,” she said.

Among the changes are a $2,000 signing bonus and a $2,700 retention bonus, in addition to higher salaries and increased contributions toward retirement funds, she said. Officers with six months to three years experience will earn $70,797, up from 69,243. Increases get larger with more experience, she said. Officers with three to five years will earn $79,797, up from $72,987; those with five to 10 years will go from $76,357 to $83,332 and those with more than 10 years will make $86,393, up from $77,813.

A new process to ease transfers from other police forces also was added, she said.

Alec Shaffer, president of the Temple University Police Association, said he doubts the new pact, which runs to June 2027, even with higher salaries and signing and retention bonuses, really will help recruit and retain more officers because some other departments still pay more. On top of that, the department soon will lose some officers who are planning to leave for other jobs, including with the Philadelphia police department, he said.

“They are doing something, but it’s just not enough to be competitive,” he said.

The department currently employs 98 sworn police officers, including administrators, commanders, supervisors, detectives and patrol officers, Griffin said.


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