Stolen cars and Public Safety’s stigma

How a string of thefts leads to a larger discussion surrounding campus safety.

Chloe McElmury, Senior Columnist

When Public Safety changed their name, removing the “security” part of their title, I heard many a joke about how they couldn’t handle doing both, so one had to go.

I never really cared about what Public Safety did. I had never needed to depend on them or felt so scared walking home that I needed an escort (I just walked really fast with keys in hand). However, with the slew of recent car thefts, including my own ‘97 Honda Civic (Honda Momma), I’m worried about the safety of others on and around campus.

While these thefts are not Public Safety’s fault, they didn’t record that my friend called in my stolen car right after my car got stolen. I was parked on Englewood, right in front of the Creative Writing house. When I got back in the swing of things on Monday, I was left wondering why campus hadn’t yet been alerted of Honda Momma’s theft. Immediately, I emailed the Director of Public Safety, Melinda Heikkinen, urging that campus be alerted. It was then that I learned they had no record of my car being stolen or of my friend calling in. Heikkinen questioned that my friend had even called into Public Safety at all; the idea of a mistake being made within her department seemed to be an afterthought.

Even if Englewood isn’t their “jurisdiction,” they could have waited with her while the police came. They could have come by just to make sure all was well. Almost five days after the incident, an email was sent out alerting the community. Although I received an apology after a few days, this one misstep is a part of a larger problem surrounding Public Safety— their trustworthiness.

Senior Emily Studer, when asked what she thought of Public Safety said she heavily disliked them.

I bet that’s why they changed their name from safety and security because no one ever felt safe or secure. I know I sure didn’t,” Studer said.

Studer recounted a time when she didn’t have a car and was waiting for Public Safety to give her a ride back to campus. She said she waited outside during winter for over an hour and missed her class. Public Safety claimed they had sent someone but she wasn’t paying attention, even though she was paying “laser attention.”

Another senior, Jensen Sevening, noted the silliness of Public Safety.

“They’ve given me two separate parking tickets for times that weren’t during “permit parking only” so I wasn’t violating any rules,” Sevening said.

Sevening added that the tickets were written in pencil. And I mean, you just can’t even make that up. Pencil hardly seems professional enough for something as serious as a ticket. It’s like if we wrote all of our serious, legally-binding documents in Comic Sans. Or even worse, Curlz MT.

Senior Ashley Arsenault had a different perspective to share. Arsenault had a critical view on the employees who work at Public Safety, who should be attentive and ready for students at a moment’s notice.. or so she thought. She shared that she had an ex who was working for Public Safety while they were together.

They are expecting 18-20 year olds to carry around cuffs and a baton sort-of-thing which was super weird,” Arsenault said through an email interview.

She further shared that during the night shifts her ex-partner would just come back to their room and play video games or watch Netflix, “still in his uniform and with his walkie on loud in case anything happened.”

While Arsenault is uncertain if any other officers were negligent in their job, their ex-partner showed many signs of misconduct while being on duty.

“I can’t say if this is true or not, because I only ever saw him with my own eyes and don’t want to gossip; BUT- this was a common occurrence, that for 4-5 of his 8 hour shift he would be in his room instead of patrolling the dorms, walkways, parking lots, and perimeters,” Arsenault said.

I was completely shocked by her words. I was worried just about my car, but imagine how many times Public Safety could have possibly been missing out on something a lot more serious than a missing, POS car.

…it’s scary to know how unreliable this service is on campus and how vulnerable on-campus students are because of this oversight by upper management and downright irresponsibility by student worker officers,” Arsenault said.

I think Public Safety should start paying attention to their perceptions around campus, as well as their staff. I made sure to tell their director that Public Safety definitely has a stigma on campus so when I learned they hadn’t even recorded that my car had been stolen when it’s only one of many stolen in April, that I was surprised, but not surprised.

I want to believe that they’re trying, and that these cases are all just the worst of the worst. However, at Hamline, where administrative issues and student grievances are a dime a dozen, I’m not sure what to believe. While I’m on the way out (less than a month to go!) to those of you who remain, please stay vigilant.

Watch each others’ backs and continue to advocate for stronger safety on campus, among everything else. We pay a lot to go to Hamline, and we deserve to feel safe. Whether you’re a commuter student, part-time or living in the dorms, I can’t help feeling like we deserve better. In the meantime, you can catch me commuting on the bus and green line!