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November 6, 2007, Volume 54, No. 11

An Open Letter to the Penn Community in response to the
November 2, 2007 Daily Pennsylvanian Op-ed article.

Addressing Crime Through Law Enforcement Initiatives

Policing and providing safety and security in an urban university environment like Penn is an ever challenging and difficult proposition. Much of the difficulty in understanding policing in the Penn patrol zone, which extends from 30th Street to 43rd Street, Market Street to Baltimore Avenue, lies in the fact that the Penn community is unaware of the depth and breadth of the portfolio of responsibilities falling under the University of Pennsylvania Police Department (UPPD).

From the student perspective, the Penn Police are most visible in terms of their varied community policing programs, which include collaborating with the Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) Agency to monitor underage drinking at fraternity parties, as well as enforcing public order and quality of life crimes such as panhandling, disorder management, graffiti, traffic and driving under the influence violations, and retail and bicycle thefts.

What is very difficult to convey to the Penn community are all of the activities that are invisible to the student, staff and faculty bodies—activities that involve arresting between 600 and 700 people every year, unaffiliated with Penn, for violent crimes, narcotics violations, quality of life crimes and outstanding court-issued warrants (many of which are for violent crimes committed across the city, such as robbery and firearms violations). Our officers on patrol, and our outstanding detective unit, supplemented by our AlliedBarton security officers and our PennComm emergency operators providing virtual patrol via Closed Circuit Television Cameras, work 24/7, 365 days a year, proactively both to prevent and solve all crimes, from petty theft, to robbery, to weapons violations. 

Two weeks prior to the ‘Koko Bongo’ incident, Penn’s Chief of Police Mark Dorsey and his commanders met with the commanding officer of the Philadelphia Police 18th District (in which Penn is situated), to discuss ongoing problems at this nightclub. Subsequent to that meeting, the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), at the request of the UPPD, assigned a special detail outside of Koko Bongo to work with UPPD officers already deployed in the area, in anticipation of continued problems. Officers from the UPPD and PPD, in conjunction with the LCE, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Nuisance Task Force and the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections, have been and will continue to work with the owners of this nightclub to ensure that they are putting measures in place to reduce future violence inside and outside of the club.

The University City District (UCD) ucityphila.org, the Special Services District established in 1997 has worked tirelessly as a partner not only with Penn, but with numerous organizations, institutions, businesses and University City residents to improve the quality of life in this 2.2 square mile area of West Philadelphia. Both the Penn and Philadelphia Police patrol the University City area, and are continually examining the ways in which they can address crime through law enforcement initiatives.

For those members of the Penn community interested in providing specific feedback as to how the UPPD can adjust their deployment or policing priorities, we would welcome an open dialogue in person with any member who can provide informed suggestions. We would also recommend that all Penn students take advantage of the faculty experts in this area in the Jerry Lee Center for Criminology, and work with them, as well as the Division of Public Safety, in devising constructive evidence-based law enforcement initiatives for the Penn Police.

As the City of Philadelphia prepares to lay to rest a veteran and well-loved police officer, our Penn Police officers will also be in mourning. You may notice that they will be wearing a black mourning crepe across their badges for the next 30 days, which is a memorial band worn as a sign of respect when one of our own has fallen. We are very proud of their work ethic and commitment to service in University City. Our officers are well-aware of the prevalence of illicit firearms in Philadelphia. Their bullet-proof vests, worn every time on duty, are a continual reminder of the dangers of their chosen profession and their priorities, without question, are in the right place.

—Maureen Rush, Vice President for Public Safety

—Mark Dorsey, Chief of Police, University of Pennsylvania Police Department

Almanac - November 6, 2007, Volume 54, No. 11