September is National Campus Safety month. But at Wilkes University, the Department of Public Safety makes campus safety a priority every month.
Director of Public Safety Christopher Jagoe explained that the department has changed over the four years he’s been at the University, but it’s only the beginning. “When I got here, there were three desks (in the office)… Now we have state of the art.”
One visible change is the introduction of a new blue light phone system which can be seen around campus. Four of the phones have been placed around the Fenner Quadrangle and Gateway and three more are located in the Henry Student Center lots.
“We worked with facilities to update the blue light phones on campus; a lot of universities moved away from that because a lot of folks have cellphones,” Jagoe explained. “But what happens if your phone dies, or you can’t get to it? Or… it was taken from you in a robbery?”
The new system includes a 360-degree camera which, when alarmed, will allow the communications staff within Public Safety to view the surrounding area.
Increasing communications between the campus community and officers is critical, Jagoe explained. One more way his office has done that has been the introduction of the Wilkes Shield, a free safety app that allows users to immediately report incidents on campus,
“I recognize now, as I’m getting older and my children are getting older, that text messaging is how people communicate more often now,” Jagoe said. “People feel safer communicating about things that concern them but don’t necessarily want to put a name on it. Through Wilkes Shield, you have that ability to open up two-way communication.”
A popular feature of the application is the Friend Watch feature. Users can create a group out of their phone contacts to update friends on their location. If they don’t arrive to their destination in the allotted time, it will alert the chat group.
Over 4,000 individuals have downloaded Wilkes Shield. But as technology changes, Public Safety is working to employ the next best thing, Rave Guardian. Similar to Wilkes Shield, it will allow for mass text messaging that users can sign up for groups to be notified on campus happens, weather events and more.
The Department of Public Safety is also connecting with students on social media to keep them in the know. Through their Facebook page, the department posts campus alerts, weather announcements and general happenings in their office, including community training sessions.
Recently they partnered with Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in “stop the bleeding” training which prepares students and officers to respond to critically injured victims and give the best immediate support. The officers also undergo active shooter training twice a year to maintain their status. “If you aren’t constantly training, it’s easy to forget,” Jagoe said. The training exceeds both the state requirement and the minimum training undertaken by most university campus safety departments. Public Safety also is training their officers as threat assessment managers.
“As we look at behavioral issues or threats against the campus or against students, faculty or staff, training our officers to look at these events and assess whether we need to be concerned or monitoring them is valuable,” Jagoe said.
Jagoe is proud that campus security is equipped for any challenge. Now he hopes the campus community will reach out and get to know the men and women protecting them.
“It amazes me how astute our officers are. If they’ve dealt with you, they remember you,” he said. Having officers in busy campus locations helps with them being visible. “I encourage our officers to be where people are at all the time.”
As the department continues to expand, Jagoe encourages both his team and the campus community to reach out to one another. “It would be nice if the community could take the time if they see somebody to say hi and introduce yourself.”
Click here to meet members of the Public Safety Department.