As of Sept. 23, the security carts are gone. Nowhere to be found. But, why? Where could they have gone? The world may never know. Except, well, I do. But only thanks to the help of Detective Rick Young. And by help I mean he told me and I jotted some notes.
The carts had so much good use! Just hearing them zoom off in the distance made me feel a little safer. Also, if I were scared to walk to the gas station for a midnight snack I could call security and have them safely transport me there. Not to mention they were a safe haven during rainstorms and blizzards. So, I reiterate, why take them out of service?
The executive decision boils down to student safety. Now, you may think, “What about the pros you mentioned above, Sean?” Hear Young out.
Young said the problem with hearing the carts from a distance is that evil-doers can hear them, too. The carts take away a vital component of campus security in that they discard the element of surprise.
Young made his point by sharing a true story: “My first day here, six years ago, I was sitting in my office at 2:30 [a.m.] while developing the campus security program, and I heard the cart come by. I looked out the window and saw the cart pass, and I wondered why the [driver] didn’t notice me sitting in my office. You would think an alert security guard would wonder why the lights were on in the building and who was there, but they drove past and continued on their route. Off in the distance near Bancroft I saw two guys smoking and drinking, and as the security cart got closer, those two guys hid their drinks and put out their cigarettes. The cart stopped in front of them, they had a little chat, and the cart continued on its route. The two guys retrieved their drinks and relit some cigarettes, and continued about their business.”
Young asks, “What are you preventing?”
I asked about the midnight runs from dorm to gas station and he told me it's actually illegal to drive the carts on the sidewalks. And the safe haven from Mother Nature? The problem is the plastic insulator covering the cart. It’s near impossible to see through (much less hear through), and as a security officer it’s essential to have all senses firing at full capacity.
Also, Young said the carts were being used more as a shuttle service than for security. Which, in and of itself isn’t a problem. The problem arises when the security officer is busy shuttling and not surveying the campus for suspects.
Another case and point: Young has been doing law enforcement for 32 years, so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about safety.
In an experiment, Young followed one of the security carts to see how long it would take for the security officers to notice he was following them. It took a while for them to notice. Longer than he hoped.
Though there were both pros and cons to having the carts, this time the cons outweighed the pros. However, Young was open to the idea of using the carts as a shuttle service should administration deem it worthy.
What are security officers to do in this post-cart era?
Well, resume what they did in the good ol’ days: walk. Need an escort to your car at night? Call the security guard and he will happily walk you there. See someone lurking in the dark behind a tree? Flag down the security officer walking your way instead of having to risk your life stepping in front of a cart to get their attention.
Young explained this new process is a good way to stay fit, and being approachable and aware really is what community policing is all about.
Sean Hendrix is a senior studying biomedical science