More than just the campus police

During the 2010-11 school year, UMHB police officers responded to 12,308 calls for service, performed 52,121 building checks and has issued 2, 642 citations.

For a university of about 3,100 students, the campus law enforcement office stays busy.

“We are the primary contact for criminal investigation, traffic violations and overall safety here at UMHB,” Director of Campus Police Gary Sargent said.

Often times the officers are faced with the misconception that they are not real cops, but rather just security or rent-a-cops. This assumption is false.

Among the nine officers are an estimated 200 plus years of experience in various fields ranging from arson investigation to service in Afghanistan.

Criminal Investigations Officer John Ellison believes that the campus is fortunate to have a real police department that cares about the students, faculty, staff and buildings.

Police officer Kevin Mertz helps senior public relations major Hayley Shaffer with her car. Photo by Lindsay Schaefer.

Police officer Kevin Mertz helps senior public relations major Hayley Shaffer with her car. Photo by Lindsay Schaefer.

“Not only can our officers handle crime, but we can actually spend time investigating the cause and following up the situation,” he said. “The city police officers don’t get to know the students like we do and in return wouldn’t care as much about the campus.”

According to the  2010-11 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report that the campus police sent out to all the students, the number of criminal offenses and non-criminal incidents occurring on campus decreased by 5.1 percent from the previous year.

“One of the key reasons why our crime rates are lower is because of our emphasis on crime prevention,” Ellison said. “We have called the student body to help us and be our extra eyes…. If you are unsure of something or somebody, just call us.”

Although their main focus is on protecting and serving the campus, the police officers have jurisdiction in Bell County.

This past year they have responded to 64 calls to back up the Belton Police Department in either providing protection for the Belton officer and/or to stabilizing an event until the BPD arrived.

The campus police serve as law enforcement but also as solution finders.

“I would like to describe our team as problem solvers with police powers,” Sargent said. “We are 60 percent non-law enforcement.”

The department urges students to call the police if they have a problem and are unsure whom to contact. Officers will either get the right contact or take care of the situation.

Senior performance study major Rachel Jeske has been a student worker for the police department for four semesters and has witnessed firsthand how the police officers help people.

“They help the students who are on campus by offering to unlock cars if they leave their keys inside or jump-starting a car if your battery is dead,” she said. “They also help keep students safe by making sure those on campus are supposed to be there.”

While fighting crime and keeping the campus in order is their main responsibility, the officers want students to know they can always approach them and ask any questions.

Ellison said, “Even if the situation isn’t a felony or crime, we are still going to care. We are going to show compassion, and we are going to help.”

Author: Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer is a junior Mass Communication, Public Relations major at UMHB. She is the Entertainment Page editor for The Bells Newspaper. Growing up in the small town of Nacogdoches, Texas taught her to enjoy the simple things in life such as local cuisine, an afternoon at grandma’s house, and getting to know her “neighbors”. If she’s not hunting for the latest pair of shoes, she can most likely be found eating chocolate cake with her closest friends. She enjoys making copies for the Bells newspaper and taking on many other random assignments!

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