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UB Focuses on Student Safety in the Heights Neighborhood

Published February 28, 2013

This Q&A will answer many of the questions you may have about safety in the Heights District, near UB’s South Campus, and how UB is working with students, residents and community leaders to address issues in the neighborhood. If you have other questions about university and City of Buffalo efforts to maintain safety in the Heights or on UB campuses, please feel free to contact us by email or call UB’s Community Relations Office at (716) 829-3099.

How safe is the Heights District neighborhood?

The Heights neighborhood, which borders UB’s South Campus in Buffalo, is home to many responsible families, many of whom are UB employees, as well as students who rent apartments in the neighborhood. Like most urban communities that border a college campus, this neighborhood is not immune to crime and safety issues, but it is generally a safe place to live. Safety and crime in the neighborhood has been proactively addressed in a number of ways over the last few years by UB, the City of Buffalo and neighborhood residents. The joint police patrols begun by UB’s University Police and the Buffalo Police Department continue to add to police presence in the neighborhood (http://www.buffalo.edu/news/10396).

Other initiatives include:

  • A memorandum of understanding between UB and the Buffalo Police Department that allows BPD lieutenants to contact UB Police and have them respond to low priority calls regarding parties, etc., that allow BPD to respond to higher priority calls.
  • The new Buffalo Police Department burglary detail that provides another deterrent to neighborhood crime.
  • New dedicated patrol cars (in addition to burglary detail) to patrol the South Campus neighborhoods.
  • Halloween Patrol: BPD increases patrols for increased visibility and response time, if necessary, at a time when many students are out and about in the South Campus neighborhood.
  • Assignment of two Community Police Officers, which allows officers to become more familiar within the neighborhoods.

Some of the crime in the Heights neighborhood is related to the abuse of alcohol among young people who reside in or visit it. Some of this behavior leads to so-called nuisance crimes, such as vandalism. More serious incidents include acts of violence, though they are rare. UB takes very seriously any criminal activity perpetrated against or by students, which is why UB and its community partners continue to take steps to make this neighborhood safer. UB Student Wide Judiciary and Judicial Affairs have developed a low-tolerance policy for students involved in misconduct.

Collaboration among the university, the City of Buffalo and the community is essential to these efforts. “The safety of our students, both on and off campus, is certainly a major concern for the University Police,” says Gerald W. Schoenle Jr., chief of University Police. “The university has made numerous security enhancements on and near our South Campus and North Campus. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, particularly the Amherst and Buffalo Police, to assist in addressing concerns both on and off campus.”

How safe is the University at Buffalo overall?

UB’s annual on-campus crime statistics are consistently very low and, in fact, our crime rate is significantly down from 10 years ago. UB’s University Police department is state-accredited and is one of the best campus police departments in the state. University Police consists of 61 highly trained professionals who provide around-the-clock service to the university community.

Over the past five years, UB has invested more than $5 million in security enhancements on its campuses, including new lighting, security cameras and emergency Blue Light phones.  The university also has purchased security cameras in the Heights and added joint patrols of Main Street with the Buffalo Police Department.

What specifically are UB and its community partners doing to address safety and crime in the Heights?

UB and the City of Buffalo have launched several new collaborative initiatives to continue improving safety, deter crime and enhance quality of life in the Heights.

Each fall semester, the Buffalo Police Department and University Police conduct joint patrols along Main Street in Buffalo on Thursday through Saturday nights when there are many students and members of the community out and about. In addition, UB has purchased five security cameras for the City of Buffalo installed on street corners in the neighborhood.

The present camera locations include traffic-signals or street-light poles on the corners of Winspear Avenue and Parkridge Street, Main and Custer streets, Main Street and Englewood Avenue, Main Street and LaSalle Avenue, and Englewood Avenue and Eley Place. Each new camera provides video streaming to the Buffalo Police Department camera room located at 74 Franklin St.

For the joint University Police and Buffalo Police patrols occurring in the fall and spring, UB purchased Segway Personal Transporters and bicycles for use by Buffalo and UB police officers. Bike and Segway patrols permit officers to be highly visible and are effective in patrolling defined areas with large groups of people. UB provides specialized bike patrol training to all officers.

As part of these collaborative efforts, the Buffalo Police Department has increased the presence of daily patrols in the neighborhood and will focus its Mobile Response Unit on pockets of criminal activity in the neighborhood. The City of Buffalo has been more aggressive on housing code enforcement in the neighborhood. This will improve the safety and upkeep of properties in the Heights.

How is UB raising awareness about the need for personal safety and proper behavior in the Heights and on campus?

UB continues to reach out to students and residents with information and guidance on how to safeguard their personal safety and property.

For example, the university also has implemented these new safety programs and initiatives:

  • UB created the office of Off-Campus Student Services to monitor safety issues and oversee programs that promote student safety in the Heights and other off-campus neighborhoods.
  • The university provides regular living-off-campus student orientation programs for all students. For international students, UB’s office of International Student and Scholar Services provides a Safety Tips e-newsletter, which is sent to incoming international students at least one month before they arrive in Buffalo. The office also offers the workshop on “Protecting Yourself: Scams, Fires and Landlords,” which is part of International Student Orientation and the Safety Tips e-newsletter.
  • Every fall UB distributes nearly 3,000 safety and “how to be good a neighbor” kits to students and residents in the neighborhood.  This kit contains information about how  students can protect themselves and their property, and why it is important for students to respect their neighbors by not hosting loud parties.
  • The university instituted Operation Student Safety, weekly, street-targeted inspections of homes within the South Campus neighborhoods to allow UB staff and City of Buffalo building inspectors to inspect homes (electrical, smoke detectors, etc.) and issue violation citations requiring owners to make repairs within prescribed time.
  • An annual Block Party and Safety Fair that offers UB students and residents of the Heights neighborhood safety programming and a chance to get to know one another and learn about block clubs, community and civic groups, local businesses and university services.

How is UB continuing to improve student safety on its South Campus?

UB invested more than $5 million on the South Campus in new exterior lighting, as well as 76 new security cameras and 19 new emergency blue-light systems monitored by University Police. Similar security systems also have been installed on UB’s North Campus.

 In addition, UB Police have expanded their presence on the South Campus during weekends and other peak periods. A UB Alert text message notification system is designed to make students more aware of reported criminal activity off- and on-campus, and how to avoid it. Information is also posted on the “My UB” website when necessary and useful.

UB’s student-run Safety Services office operates a safety shuttle for students looking for extra security when traveling on either campus. The shuttle runs during the semester from three different South Campus locations and from locations within a 1.5 mile radius of South Campus (as well as Kensington Village, Collegiate Village and Campus Manor). Students can call 829-2584 in advance and request to be picked-up at other South Campus locations. There are also walk stations on both campuses from which students can be escorted to their destination.

In addition, UB Police have launched a very successful public awareness campaign to make students aware of their vulnerability to automobile break-ins. As part of the in initiative, University Police distribute thousands of “vehicle burglary report cards” to staff and student vehicles parked in South Campus lots. The flyers provide tips on how to prevent theft of personal belongings from parked cars.

In addition, UB’s Personal Safety Committee meets monthly to recommend further actions and programs to raise the level of safety awareness among all members of the university community. The meetings are open to all faculty, students and staff.

Why doesn’t UB Police regularly patrol the Heights neighborhood?

The law allows SUNY Police to patrol the campus and streets that directly border the campus, but the law limits their authority outside these strict boundaries. UB police officers are, however, authorized to assist Amherst and Buffalo officers during patrols, arrests and investigations, and they often do. Because of this arrangement, UB was able to launch joint patrols in the Heights neighborhood each semester with officers from the Buffalo Police Department. To make UB Police even more available to assist in peak times during the semester, the university added additional officers to the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. patrol on UB’s campuses. This staffing upgrade was made in response to feedback from residents of the Heights and the campus community who requested additional evening patrols.

What is UB doing to improve quality of life and community relations in the Heights?

Improving the quality of life and relationships in the neighborhood is a priority of UB’s community outreach. Working with community leaders and neighborhood residents, UB has implemented several initiatives that are having a positive effect on the neighborhood and its relationship with the university. These include:

  • Ongoing grass-roots collaboration with community groups, such as the University Heights Collaborative, University District Block Club Coalition, Buffalo Promise Neighborhood and the South Campus Community Development Association, to encourage dialogue and creation of mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Re-launch of a new Employee Assistant Program to encourage UB employees to purchase homes as a means of stabilizing the Heights and other neighborhoods around UB’s South Campus.
  • Attendance at monthly Buffalo Police District Community Meetings with the Chief, along with other residents to discuss strategies on how to reduce the incidence of crime in the neighborhoods.
  • Creation of a Community Relations Advisory Council to focus on issues of concern to community members and how UB can improve its relationship with the community.
  • Creation of free community events, such as the “UB on the Green” summer concert series and a community Farmers Market, which gives neighborhood residents an opportunity to enjoy the UB South Campus and also helps to build good community relationships.
  • Creation of a quarterly “UB Neighbor” newsletter, which is mailed to 16,000 residences in the Heights and near the South Campus, updating them on UB’s community-relations initiatives and outreach on the South Campus and in the surrounding community.

Why doesn’t UB buy the properties in the Heights neighborhood, rent them to students and monitor their behavior?

UB offers housing on both the South and North campuses. If the university purchased homes in the community, they would come off the tax rolls. Instead, we are focusing our efforts on encouraging faculty and staff to purchase homes in the Heights under UB’s new H.O.M.E. Program. More than 20 UB employees have purchased homes around the South Campus through a similar program, joining nearly 500 of their fellow UB employees currently living in the Heights. With the incentives offered under the new H.O.M.E. Program, many more employees may take advantage of this great opportunity.

Shouldn’t UB be doing more for the Heights neighborhood?

The issues within the Heights require long-term, community-wide solutions. UB is committed to developing and implementing such solutions in partnership with the community and the City of Buffalo. For example, UB is investigating development of a Heights neighborhood plan, in partnership with the City of Buffalo and community leaders. Such a plan would provide opportunities for the Heights to strategically leverage UB’s growth on the South Campus. In effect, this plan would be a blueprint for improving and attracting investment in the neighborhood and its commercial district. This plan would raise awareness about the needs of the Heights and provide opportunities for local and regional leaders to support and develop the neighborhood.