South Orange Police Department strengthens presence on campus
A decline in muggings and criminal activity in Seton Hall’s direct vicinity may be due to the use of marked police cars and officers outside of the University’s gates, according to South Orange Police Chief James Chelel.
Seton Hall’s Department of Public Safety hired off-duty South Orange police officers to patrol the pedestrian gates around the University shortly after the fall semester began, according to Pat Linfante, assistant vice president for public safety and security.
Linfante added that the police department gave the off-duty officers permission to use the marked cars while they were stationed near the gates.
The police officers are stationed outside the Wilden Gate, the Ward Place Gate and the McNulty Gate, Linfante said.
Chelel said that in addition to the off-duty police officers hired by the school, the police department has a zone of increased presence around the school, so there are also some plain clothes officers stationed in the area.
“(Public safety) works to keep students safe when they are in the school, and we work to keep students safe traveling around the community,” Chelel said, adding that officers were assigned by the police at times and places where crimes are more likely to occur, as long as the department had the manpower.
“I think the word gets out…individuals that may have been up there to commit a crime,” Chelel said. “The more we get out there, the (more the) word gets out, so hopefully that pattern will continue.”
Chelel said the police presence has been especially visible around the Wilden Gate because there had been some incidents there in the past, and there are a lot of students who live in the Ivy Hill apartments.
Chelel said he and Linfante met frequently to speak about safety issues around the University, and the police car initiative came about in October after a few students were robbed or mugged outside the gates of Seton Hall. The initiative, along with investigations, arrests and stops on the part of plain clothes officers seem to have led to a decrease in the amount of criminal incidents in the area surrounding the school, Chelel said.
Linfante said the police officers and vehicles are assigned to the gates every evening, depending on availability. Chelel said he was unsure of the exact time, but he thought the off-duty officers started at around 10 p.m. and finished around 2 a.m. Linfante added that members of the department of public safety were not stationed at these areas.
Chelel said that the police department recommends that officers do not work more than 16 hours a day, so if they have worked a 10 hour shift with the department, they should only work up to six hours with Seton Hall.
Linfante and Chelel agreed that the somewhat informal partnership between the two departments had been beneficial to Seton Hall students.
“I have been employed at the University for the past 12 years,” Linfante said. “During this time the Seton Hall Dept. of Public Safety and the South Orange Police Department have enjoyed a great working relationship. We have worked together over the years on my issues that impact the safety and security of the Seton Hall community.”
Chelel said while the police department worked hard to keep all members of the community safe, students should be aware of their surrounding and try to avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. If students should find themselves in such a situation, Chelel said he advised cooperating.
Caitlin Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.