Posted on February 11, 2002 in News
By Lindsay Quinn
University officials are trying to decide whether or not to expand coverage at the front desks of dorms following a series of dorm break-ins, including one in which a man was discovered in a women’s closet in Philippi Hall earlier in the month.
Currently on the Gorham campus there are security desk assistants working at the front desks of each residence hall every night between the hours of 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. Portland Hall has a different security policy, and other area universities have different approaches to safety and security desk assistants.
At Portland Hall, there are just under 300 students, according to Mike Mullet, the resident director of Portland Hall. The doors to the resident hall are locked 24 hours a day.
“There is a security desk worker whenever there is not a USM police officer on duty,” said Mullet. A USM Police Officer is at the desk between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the front desk is staffed from 6 a.m. to a little after 11 p.m.
“There is some overlap,” Mullet said.
When asked if he found there was a greater need for security at Portland Hall Mullet commented, “It is just more prudent to make sure there is a high level of security, because we’re on Congress Street.”
There are over 1,300 students living on the Gorham campus.
The most recent crime statistics offered by the USM Police show there were six burglaries on the Gorham campus in 2000, two in the residence halls and one on public property.
This past week, there were three break-ins in Gorham residence halls. All three occurred in Dickey between Feb. 4 and 5. Wallets, bookbags, a cell phone and a purse were stolen, and it is believed that in each case, the doors were not locked. At least three other break-ins have occurred on the Gorham campus this semester, one of which included an intruder breaking into a women’s dorm room and hiding in the closet. After being discovered, the intruder ran out of the room.
Some people are wondering if the Gorham campus has a significantly increasing crime rate, and why officials aren’t increasing dorm security.
Mullet said Portland Hall has had no major problem with break-ins in the dorm that is set in the middle of one of Portland’s busiest urban areas. He added that some things go unreported.
“There have not been a lot of documented instances, we do everything we can to deal with the [breaches of security],” said Mullet.
Yet, there has been recent events of breaches of security in Gorham and many people are wondering how much more needs to happen before each security desk in every residence hall has increased hours of operation or 24 hour operation.
“I don’t feel safe,” said junior Robie-Andrews resident Dorn McMahon last week. “I would feel better if there was someone working at the desk 24 hours . ”
Currently, the hours of security desk operation are from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., staffed by students who are paid with work study funds.
Nelson gave a rough estimate of 80 security desk workers for the Gorham campus.
“If the security desk hours were extended, we would have to hire more people,” Nelson said.
As a work-study job, staffing the front desk on the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift currently pays $6.80 per hour. On the 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, a student receives $7.55 per hour.
“The increase in money per hour is due to the challenge of finding people to work the shift and because the later shift is more intense, and a front desk worker can have trouble having people cooperate with them,” said Nelson.
Working the security desk requires vigilance. A student must complete a training session, whereupon they learn how to confront hostile situations and/or individuals. They also must learn how to deal with visibly intoxicated students.
A resident assistant is on duty all night, so the student may call if extra help is needed to deal with a situation.
Other area schools have different policies regarding front desk staffing in residence halls.
At Boston University in the heart of Boston, there are approximately 10,550 students residing in over 140 residence halls. Security desk assistants monitor some halls. But the largest residence halls are monitored by professional police officers, said Colin Riley of Boston University’s Public Relations Department.
Their police officers engage in community policing as well.
“They get to know the students, and advise them if there has been thefts in the area,” said Riley.
Riley also revealed a complex guest/visitor policy. Residents can have guests between 8pm and midnight, and then their visitors must leave by 1 a.m. on Monday through Friday, and by 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
On a campus with less than half as many residents as Boston University, The University of New Hampshire has a significantly less strict security policy.
There are no security desk assistants. A resident assistant is on duty from 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and police officers do rounds within all 20 residence halls on campus according to Mary Faucher, assistant director of Residential Life at UNH.
A very similar situation is in place at the University of Maine at Orono.
Residence halls on the campus do not have security desks.
Kevin Blaisdell, a resident assistant at UMO, explained the system. One resident assistant is on duty each night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and a public safety officer monitors the halls. Blaisdell said he doesn’t think it is bad not to have a security desk.
“We don’t have enough safety concern to make it worthwhile,” he said.
Contributing Writer Lindsay Quinn can be contacted at: email@example.com