By Thomas Johnson
With over 13,000 students in attendance, the issue of public safety has always been at the forefront of concern for students, faculty and administration on Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus. It has become an even bigger concern since classes now run 7 days a week and from as early as 6 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m.
As of late, another growing concern has been that of theft and safety in the campus parking lots. This concern stems from a string of vehicle larcenies that occurred on all 3 of SCCC’s campuses in a span of less than 3 hours. In an effort to combat this growing trend, public safety officials claim to have increased patrol coverage. However, the move is in no way an end to the problem, according to the Director of Fire and Public Safety, Baycan Fideli. “When I see someone opening a car and looking around inside, there is no way to tell by looking at them if it’s suspicious or not. There are thousands of students parking here… people need to report suspicious activity,” explained Fideli.
Many victims on campus don’t report to public safety officials until days after the crime, and others don’t report the crimes at all. One such student is liberal arts major Samina Aziz, 20. Aziz had her car broken into and robbed of textbooks, a GPS, and several other items. However, even after suffering several hundred dollars in stolen property, Aziz never reported the crime. “I just felt that they [public safety] couldn’t really do anything… I didn’t want to waste my time.” said Aziz. These occurrences have become a source of frustration for Fideli. “People don’t report the crimes!” exclaimed Fideli “If people would just report the crimes, we would be able to use that information to determine trends and work to better prevent these crimes.”
According to public safety, this issue is not one that is isolated to the Ammerman campus at SCCC. Fideli stated that during his time at Stony Brook University he would have to deal with many cases of theft of and from cars on campus. “In Stony Brook they [thieves] used trucks to just tow the cars away… Now, if there’s any tow truck on campus, especially an unmarked, it’s not leaving this campus until I clear them,” Fideli stated. It was also stated that in several other instances, the perpetrators would remove the license plates from their own vehicles so as to avoid identification.
According to Fideli, he and his department are currently working on several new initiatives to alleviate the issue, and provide the students of the College with a heightened, more efficient level of security to help give them peace of mind. Some of these initiatives include implementing an increased presence of public safety officer patrols in parking lots, as well as the presence of plain clothes and plain car officers.
Another goal, albeit long-term and in the planning stages, is to install security cameras in the parking lots to provide 24/7 coverage of higher risk areas. “The problem with cameras is that they’re expensive,” said Fideli. “One camera, solar powered and able to stand not only the freezing winter temperatures but the hot summer ones as well costs about $5,800.” Fideli went on to state that creating a new network of security cameras would cost “around $68,000” minimum.
Fideli also stated that he wants to increase awareness of some of the services that public safety has to offer that are sometimes overlooked by the college population. “A lot of people don’t know that if they call us, we’ll send an escort to get them to their car at night,” he explained.
“It’s nice to see the school trying to improve security, but we’ll see how many of these [initiatives] actually happen.” said English major Robert Coleman, 21, after hearing the new initiatives. “It’s really easy for them to say ‘Hey! Check out these ideas!’ but not as easy to actually follow through… I’ll be thrilled if they complete any of them though. Seems like good stuff.”
While many may express doubt about the effectiveness of public safety officials, it’s clear that the department is working to better serve the campus population and prevent crimes, rather than to simply handle the aftermath of an already committed crime.