Cape Fear Community College approves new police force www.privateofficer.com
Wilmington NC Feb 2 2013 Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) Trustees recently approved a proposal for an on-campus police department to enhance campus security.
With more than 27,000 students, Cape Fear Community College is the sixth-largest community college in the state, and will join about 15 other colleges in the state with dedicated police forces, Cape Fear Community College Public Information Officer David Hardin said.
Dan Wilcox, assistant director of campus safety, was recently appointed chief of police at Cape Fear Community College.
The formation of a new police department is not indicative of increased crime on campus, but a reflection of the campus’ growth, Wilcox said.
“We are prepping for more [of] what could happen than what has happened,” Wilcox said.
Brunswick Community College is one of the 15 in the state with its own police force, which was established in the early 1990s.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think they’ll find it will be well worth it once they get everything in place,” Brunswick Community College Police Chief Lindsay Walton said.
“We really take time to know the students. When we walk down the hallways, they call us by name. We try to be more of a proactive department rather than a reactive department,” Walton said.
Brunswick Community College has about 7,400 students each year, Hardin said.
According to Wilcox, Cape Fear’s crime on campus during school hours is relatively low. Current officers respond mostly to medical emergency calls or disruptive students.
Wilcox said there is a need for a police presence on campus to enforce state law and campus policy. Current resource officers on campus cannot enforce campus policies—such as Cape Fear’s tobacco-free campus policy—or stop students from skateboarding or biking where it’s prohibited on campus.
In comparison to what a normal law enforcement officer does on a regular basis, Walton said, “It’s a very unique thing and we do very different things outside a normal police department.”
Walton said there is an open line of communication between the officers, students and faculty at Brunswick Community College. When information is shared between students and officers, Walton finds they often eliminate problems before they escalate.
Brunswick County Community College has five full-time officers and three part-time officers on campus.
The policy Wilcox would like to adopt with Cape Fear’s new police force is similar to what Walton has established at Brunswick Community College.
“We want to make sure that we take all the necessary steps to promote campus safety and prevent problems from occurring in the first place,” Wilcox said.
One of the biggest advantages to having an on-campus police department is “the authority to serve as first responders to a wide variety of incidents,” Wilcox said.
Cape Fear’s police force will start out as the budget allows. Seven officers will join Wilcox to make up the police force—a lieutenant, a sergeant and five officers.
According to Vice President of Business Services Camellia Rice, the college can begin hiring staff for on-campus security using funds that are currently available in the operational budget. The campus security budget—funded through a combination of student fees and funding from the state and county—is $555,868 a year.
Wilcox said approval should take about a month after a letter from the college president and minutes from last week’s board meeting are sent to the North Carolina Training and Standards Division. It will likely be several months before the department is fully operational.
The college will hire an independent security consultant in February to review the overall safety of each CFCC campus in New Hanover and Pender counties.
The comprehensive study will include an assessment of college facilities, the surrounding environment, current college safety procedures and potential security risks, Hardin said.
“The results of this study will be used to create a campus-wide security plan,” Hardin said.
“Our board clearly understands the importance of providing a secure campus at CFCC. This is a major step forward to ensure the safest environment possible for our students and employees,” Cape Fear Community College President Dr. Ted Spring said.
Until the college has the funding to hire a sufficient number of dedicated officers for the Cape Fear’s campus police, the college will continue have a private security firm, along with resources officers from the Wilmington Police Department and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, play a role in campus security.