For the second year in a row, University Police have received a nearly $31,000 grant to put toward new technology and enforcement — but this time, the department will be using every dollar, according to spokesman Capt. Marc Limansky.
The governor’s office awarded the department $30,973 to assist with the purchase of a Situational Awareness Management System, which allows police to monitor calls made to other agencies in real-time. For example, if Prince George’s County Police receive a robbery call, University Police can instantly pull up a map of the area and have an idea of where the suspect is, he added.
Through the system, the department can gather more information in the earliest stages of crime response, Limansky said. Because the technology is fairly new and requires a yearly licensing fee, the department couldn’t have afforded the purchase without outside funds. In addition, police had to shell out for a new server to handle storing the increased data.
Last year, the department returned more than half of a $30,000 grant aimed at targeting students’ underage drinking. However, this year’s funds should be utilized in their entirety.
“There’s no way we would have been able to buy this with our operating budget,” Limansky said. “[The grant] gives us enough to pay the licensing fee for a year.”
County police already use the technology, along with the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police and the District of Columbia Fire Department, Limansky said.
“There are only a handful of agencies on it right now,” he said. “It’s relatively new and I’m sure it will have benefits.”
Also beginning this semester, the department’s arrest procedures for minor infractions have changed to match new state regulations, Limansky said. According to the new policy, officers can release an individual after writing a criminal citation for offenses including but not limited to possession of marijuana, disturbing the peace, theft of less than $100 and trespassing, Limansky said.
The protocol would save officers the trouble of transporting individuals to jail, Limansky said, if they meet a set of criteria: “if the officer is satisfied with the defendant’s evidence of identity; the officer reasonably believes that the defendant will comply with the citation; the officer reasonably believes that releasing the defendant will not pose a threat to public safety; the defendant is not subject to arrest for another criminal charge arising out of the same incident; and the defendant complies with all lawful orders by the officer,” he wrote in an email.
In the past, officers would have to transport an individual to Hyattsville for intake, processing and a meeting with the commissioner — even for minor offenses.
Students and officers will both benefit from the change, Limansky said. Students will not be transported to jail for committing minor crimes and officers will be saved time and energy. The criminal penalties remain the same and, once cited, the individual must still appear in court, he said.
“I think police agencies in general are happy about it,” Limansky said.
Beyond the new technology and arrest procedures, police have no plans for changes in enforcement, Limansky said. Ismail Biougnach, a junior business major, feels police have kept the university community safe, and there’s no need for changes as long as officers continue to patrol the campus and surrounding areas regularly.
Eli Shindell, a senior physiology and neurobiology major, agreed with Biougnach.
“I feel safe on campus for the most part,” Shindell said. “There’s only so much the police can do anyway. People have to be smart.”