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Neighborhood policing offers personalized approach

September 22, 2008

Before the advent of the automobile, police officers patrolled their beats on foot and on horseback.

Along the way, they got to know the neighborhood, its people and the spots where crimes were more likely to occur.

“The officer knew all the people and all of the people knew the officer,” said ASU Police Commander Jim Hardina. “Over time, they took officers off of their foot beat and put them in cars with radios. It was more impersonal.”

The Arizona State University Police Department has returned to a version of the days of old by assigning officers to specific neighborhoods throughout the university’s residence halls.

 “We have three night-shift sergeants who are each assigned to a neighborhood,” Hardina said. Sgt. Phil Osborne covers the North Neighborhood including San Pablo, University Towers, Palo Verde East, Palo Verde West, Palo Verde Main, Alpha Drive and Manzanita Hall with about 4,000 residents. Sgt. Pam Osborne is assigned to the Center Neighborhood, home to about 1,650 residents, who live in McClintock Hall, Irish Hall, Hayden Hall and Center Complex. Sgt. Mark Aston covers the South Neighborhood including Hassayampa Academic Village, Vista del Sol, Sonora Hall, Ocotillo Hall and Adephi Commons with about 4,800 residents.

ASU’s Residential Life and Police Department frequently collaborate on issues that improve safety on campus.

“Neighborhood policing moves us closer to a comprehensive plan that will empower, engage, and inform students about being safe on and off campus,” says Sylvester Chestnut, Residential Life risk management and strategic initiatives director.  

Officers and police aides who cover neighborhoods work with student residents, hall staff, other university departments and the Tempe Police Department to solve problems before they become major issues. For instance, if there is inadequate lighting in an area, the officer can work with hall personnel and Facilities Maintenance and Repair at ASU to fix the problem.

Officers and police aides also attend residential hall staff meetings to learn about issues firsthand, participate in student programs and support residential community activities. 

The number of officers and ASU police aides assigned to each neighborhood varies depending on the night. Residence hall staff members coordinate with the officer assigned to their neighborhood on a weekly basis to discuss concerns.

Residential Life staff have received encouraging feedback from students about the personalized approach and the ASU Police Department is counting on the program to have a positive effect on crime.

“The bottom line is that calls will be reduced and crime in neighborhoods should go down,” Hardina said.