Something that members of the IU Northwest campus community ought to be able to take for granted is a comfortable, well-appointed and safe environment in which to learn and work. Safety and security should never be assumed anywhere, but, year after year, IU Northwest is one of the very safest campuses in Indiana University, the state of Indiana and the United States. Indeed, in 2015, IU Northwest was rated by Home Insurance as one of the 50 safest campuses in the United States.
Maintaining an environment in which students, faculty members and staff colleagues can be confident about safety and security requires diligent, skilled work round the clock by the members of the Indiana University Police Department – Northwest (IUPD-NW) who are stationed on our campus. Our IUPD-NW officers are a familiar and reassuring presence around campus, on the grounds and in the buildings. Chief Wayne James and his colleagues place the highest priority on sustaining good, mutually-supporting relationships with all members of the campus community, which is an extension of the community policing approach that guides IUPD-NW practices at IU Northwest. According to Chief James, community policing:
. . . is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues . . . We consider our community to be our students, our staff, our faculty, and the citizens of Gary.
Community policing is very appropriate to the traditions of the academic environment and, consistent with IU Northwest’s Strategic Priorities, extends to the larger Gary and Northwest Indiana communities. Among the ways that the IUPD-NW keeps the campus safe is by partnering with other local law enforcement agencies that patrol in the campus neighborhood, including the Gary Police Department, Lake County Sheriff and the Indiana State Police. IUPD-NW patrols are a common sight in the University Park area, including on bicycles in the good weather, and Chief James and other officers are very active in community-based activities (such as Shop with a Cop at the holidays) and organizations. Last summer, local children discovered that an ice cream truck in their neighborhood was staffed by the IUPD-NW, as a way for residents and police officers to get to know each other better.
Safety in Northwest Indiana is also advanced through an initiative by SPEA faculty member Joseph Ferrandino, who has organized a collaborative data consortium, with funding from NIPSCO, that supports more than twenty local law enforcement agencies, including the IUPD-NW, to share statistical information that enables them to deploy their resources more efficiently and effectively. The data are also published daily on The Times of Northwest Indiana’s Regional Crime Report website.
Among the advantages of community policing is the building of mutual trust that results in important information being made available to police. Theft on campus is a good example. Even in a very safe environment, thefts can be a problem. Campuses are very open and welcoming places in which people can become careless with personal possessions, such as laptops and tablets. The IUPD-NW urges all members of our campus community, whether in classrooms, lounge areas, the Library or offices, to be careful to not leave personal property unattended or doors open and unlocked, to prevent opportunistic thefts. Still, the IUPD-NW at IU Northwest very successfully uses its local knowledge and investigative skills to close 92% of cases of theft on campus and recover 85% lost property.
Safety is a high Indiana University and campus priority and we can be grateful for the fine work of our campus police (supported by the IUPD-NW resources across all IU campuses), as well as all of the campus citizens who take their individual roles so seriously.