Speeches & Commentary

Following up on steps to enhance safety and security

Dear students, faculty, and staff:

On Tuesday, I expressed my determination to address safety concerns that have intensified following a recent spike in criminal activity in neighborhoods near the Danforth Campus. I now am reaching out to share with you specific steps we are taking in the short-, mid-, and longer-term.

Today, I charged a working group of my key leadership with responsibility for developing a safety and security action plan, building on what is working well and the strength of our Washington University Police Department (WUPD), but holistically addressing key areas for improvement. Executive Vice Chancellor Hank Webber will chair the working group. I have asked for their initial recommendations within 45 days, and a final report by the end of the academic semester. The group is tasked with considering action items that will bring direct and meaningful benefit to members of our university community, as well as our neighbors in the surrounding areas. They will be consulting widely with faculty, students, and staff, as well as our broader community partners.

In July, we commissioned a complete review of our current safety and security efforts. This review is being conducted by Margolis Healy, a leading national consulting firm with deep expertise in these areas and with relevant experience in higher education. I have asked for the review to be expedited, with preliminary recommendations expected within a few weeks. This will provide tremendously valuable insight for the working group and help us prioritize resources, quickly.

As the group gets to work, we already are taking steps to enhance off-campus security:

  • WUPD has adjusted its staffing to increase officer patrols in the nearby neighborhoods. This will allow us to have more of a presence and to provide more direct support to residents. We will regularly revisit the plan and adjust according to needs.
  • Effective September 14, the schedule for our Campus2Home shuttle will be changed from the current 30-minute increment to shuttles every 15 minutes. This will greatly reduce wait times and make it more convenient for riders who live in nearby neighborhoods to get home safely.
  • Effective September 14, the North Campus shuttle will run until 10 p.m., rather than 6 p.m. The shuttle will continue to serve the Lofts on Delmar Boulevard and areas north and south of the Loop.
  • Effective immediately, we have formalized WUPD’s bike patrol unit escort program. Patrol officers will be available to provide walking or biking escorts to, from, and within the WUPD patrol-zone neighborhoods north and east of the Danforth Campus. The escorts will be available between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. Requests for escorts can be made by calling WUPD at 314-935-5555.

Looking further out, I am eager for Washington University to play a more active leadership role in addressing the systemic crime challenges we face in St. Louis. As I shared on Tuesday, reducing the prevalence of crime off-campus is an extremely difficult challenge that exceeds what we can do unilaterally. I am cognizant of those limitations and know many of you are, as well. However, that does not mean that we shouldn’t try our absolute best to fully assess our own options and work to build strong partnerships with others in the region who can bring resources and influence to bear.

I already have begun to reach out to other institutions, regional leaders, and elected officials to elevate our engagement, help to convene open, candid conversation, and offer our research prowess in the search for solutions. We all are going to have to push ourselves to think more broadly about what we can do together, leveraging our individual strengths. This will not only help to keep our own university community safer, but improve the safety and well-being of all who live in the region.

A final note. I am aware that there is interest in resuming the temporary subsidized Uber offering that was activated in fall 2018. This was designed to meet a very specific need, at a specific time, and in response to a specific situation – the lack of access directly onto the Danforth Campus from the north because of the removal of our pedestrian bridge across Forest Park Parkway, as well as seriously reduced parking and difficult logistical maneuvering on campus due to the East End construction. We will not be resuming this program and are, instead, continuing to enhance our permanent transportation and parking options.

My commitment to you is that we are aggressively exploring every conceivable option to enhance our current approach. I and Executive Vice Chancellor Webber will keep you informed of progress and, also, provide opportunities for input and engagement by members of the university community.