Every Thursday through Saturday, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., with the exception of University holidays, a Rochester Police Department (RPD) officer will now patrol the park trail behind the Riverview Apartments leading up to the Erie-Lackawanna Rails-to-Trails footbridge. The patrol started on Thursday, Nov. 8 and will continue for the remainder of the semester.
According to Students’ Association Security Coordinator and Take Five Scholar Donias Doko, these times have been chosen because it was determined that the bridge received the most use during this period.
“Our hope would be that the presence of the police patrol will make students feel safer about their environment,” Doko said. “Patrolling the area … is [the officer’s] only duty, so he should be present if anyone needs him.”
The new officer is a result of collaboration between the SA, student organizations, UR Security, the RPD and concerns students brought forth about the footbridge.
This bridge is owned by the city of Rochester and is not lit. As the bridge is not University property, Security does not patrol it and does not have any blue light emergency phones either. UR has sent out several emails this semester alerting students to the fact that the bridge should not be used at night.
According to Doko, the SA Projects & Services Committee held a meeting involving leaders from student organizations and Security to discuss the issue.
Deputy Director of Security Mark Fischer explained that following this original meeting, Security responded by organizing a meeting with a team of RPD officers to discuss the necessary course of action.
The officer placed at the bridge is a sworn in member of the RPD. He is fully uniformed and working for the city police, however, the University will be funding the officer’s patrol, Fischer said.
The officer’s main job is to ensure safety in addition to encouraging students to use routes other than the bridge after dark. Such alternatives include bus routes and the SA’s Safe Ride Home program.
“The bottom line is, it’s not a safe area to be in after dark,” Fischer said. “And we really want to discourage our students and staff from using it at that time.”
Although the main purpose of the patrol is education and safety, as a member of the RPD, the officer will also be authorized to take action if he witnesses illegal acts such as underage drinking or drug possession.
In addition to the officer’s presence, there will also be other changes to increase safety on the bridge. Fischer explained that improvements will include signs on both sides, clearly stating the bridge should only be used from dawn to dusk, a new blue light installed on the campus side of the bridge and two security cameras will help make Security is more aware of anything happening in the area.
“We hope these added measures will make students feel safer around campus,” Doko said.
Despite these new safety measures, Security says that the bridge should still not be used at night. The cop is present purely as a precaution, Fischer said.
“RPD made it clear that the trail should be closed at night and no one should really use it then,” Fischer said.
Cozen is a member of the class of 2015.