University of Virginia unveils additional safety initiatives
Just in time for the spring semester, a new police substation serving The Corner commercial district opens today on University Avenue near the 14th Street railroad bridge, a joint effort of the University of Virginia Police Department and the Charlottesville Police.
U.Va. students frequent the area’s restaurants and stores, located close to many student residences, and the edge of the University’s Grounds.
The temporary substation, a gray pod building, is located between the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and the old Medical School, directly across University Avenue from the White Spot restaurant. The Public Safety Substation will help increase police visibility in the Corner area while providing a location for officers to meet with community members and to carry out administrative duties.
For now, the public can expect to see U.Va. and Charlottesville officers coming and going throughout the day and night, said U.Va. Police Lt. Melissa Fielding. While this is not a regularly staffed police facility, the public can expect an increased police presence on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., she said. If students or other members of the community require police assistance, they should continue to call 911.
A permanent substation, to be located in the building formerly occupied by the Freeman-Victorius frame shop, is expected to open in the summer.
“The new Public Safety Substation will allow officers from the University and Charlottesville Police Departments to complete work without leaving the area, thereby increasing police presence in a neighborhood where many of our students live and spend time,” said Pat Hogan, U.Va.’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “I’ve been very pleased with the collaborative efforts of representatives from the University, the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to improve safety, and this substation is one manifestation of our work together.”
“The Charlottesville Police Department is pleased to be a partner in this unprecedented effort,” Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said. “I believe that this will not only increase our visibility, but presents the opportunity for our officers to engage in a collaborative effort with the University of Virginia Police Department to sustain a safe environment for the University’s student body and employees, as well as our neighbors that adjoin the University Grounds.”
The University is beginning to implement a new “ambassadors” program with staff from the international security firm G4S providing additional support in the area near the University where many students live and spend time. After U.Va. representatives visited several other institutions this fall to learn about similar programs, the University selected G4S to implement the ambassadors program to escort members of the University community who might otherwise be walking alone at night and to increase a security presence in areas that students frequent after dark.
G4S staff are carefully screened, unarmed, uniformed security officers. Serving a different role than law enforcement, they will work closely with both the University and Charlottesville police. The company already works with Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech as well as other universities outside the commonwealth.
The University of Virginia Police Department is currently working with G4S and are in the process of hiring, training and orienting them to their new role. The program is expected to be in place by early February.
“We look forward to working with G4S to offer this important service to the University community,” Hogan said. “I expect the ambassador service to become a key component of the University’s safety plan as the program is implemented over the course of the spring semester.”
The ambassadors program and public safety substation complement other important safety and education initiatives at the University that have been under way for several months, such as enhancements to on-Grounds lighting, additional emergency phones and improvements to the University’s camera system.
“We are excited about these important steps toward stabilizing the sense of safety that was shaken during the fall,” U.Va. Chief of Police Michael Gibson said.