Public Safety is top priority for campus police squad

Janelle Green

Due to the numerous amounts of recent occurrences of violence on school campuses, Saddleback and Irvine Valley College campus authorities are altering their means of protecting students, faculty, staff and visitors.

According to recent reports from many media channels, suicide shooters on school grounds have become a hazard. In Oct. 2006, five young girls were shot and killed by Carl Roberts IV at the West Nickel Mines School in Pennsylvania. In April 2007, senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, making history with the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history.

Both schools’ Web sites state the basic duties of IVC and Saddleback campus police are as follows: patrolling campus grounds, taking crime and incident reports, conducting investigations, enforcing all applicable laws and traffic regulations, and providing a safe environment for all those on campus.

Even though they have followed these guidelines to the best of their abilities, Saddleback and IVC have had multiple counts of crime on each campus. Since 2004, Saddleback has had three forcible sex offender reports, one personal robbery, one aggravated assault report, five burglaries, 20 vehicle burglaries, four motor vehicle thefts and four counts of arson. IVC has had one personal robbery, three aggravated assault reports, 10 assault and/or battery reports, 30 burglaries, two motor vehicle thefts, and 73 counts of larceny and/or theft.

IVC’s chief of police could not be reached for comment on these crime reports.

Due to the statistics of crime that is available on each Web site, students have the tendency to fear for their safety while at school.

“Mission Viejo used to be the safest city,” Jacob Wright, 24, undecided said. “Now I find myself anticipating a crime, or being the witness of a rape or assault on campus. I keep my eyes opened at all times here.”

Chief of Saddleback campus police Harry Parmer says that he and his team of specially trained officers have a vision and a plan to bring a sense of safety onto Saddleback’s campus. Parmer believes the answer to campus security is in a safety bulletin titled “Active Shooter” that he published in May right after the Virginia Tech incident and is posted on Saddleback’s Web site.

“There is no location that can be guaranteed as being safe from such shootings,” Parmer said. “Nevertheless, there are some precautions we can take in our lives to reduce our exposure.”

The bulletin tells of the dos and don’ts in the occurrence of an active shooter on campus. It states that the first step is to call campus or local police.

“If we ever had a significant critical event that occurred on campus, the campus police department would immediately respond to that incident,” Parmer said. “We carry radios that communicate directly to the Sheriff’s department, and also the fire department.”

Parmer, a former chief of security at Golden West College before becoming the chief of Saddleback Campus Police in 1994, explains that Saddleback authorities have been involved in special training since the Virginia Tech Massacre.

“Our first responsibility is to stop that shooter,” Parmer said. “That’s what we trained with [the] Orange County Sheriff Department to do. Each of our officers is trained with those techniques and skills.”

The Saddleback Campus Police Department is always looking for training opportunities to increase their experience.

“Train, rehearse, train, rehearse. You have to train often,” Parmer said.

Parmer describes a potential threat to the school as someone who is quiet, introverted and not aggressive. They could also be someone who has been bullied, harassed or embarrassed.

“We are more dependent on what we get from the community,” Parmer said. “We have to encourage people to report things to us that are abnormal or make them feel uncomfortable. If a student doesn’t feel safe in a classroom, no learning is ever going to happen there.”

To contact IVC campus safety, call 451-5234. For Saddleback campus safety, call 582-4444. Both schools provide a free 24-hour escort service from campus buildings to parking areas.

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