Grants Allow Police to Step Up Enforcement and Community Outreach
Posted: October 11, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
In 2003, the number of arrests and referrals related to alcohol or drug-related offenses on campus increased significantly, according to the George Mason University Police Department’s 2004 Annual Security Report, released this month. However, the statistics do not tell the whole story about crime on campus. With the help of more grants from state and federal authorities, the Police Department was able to increase its staff, update its equipment, and hone its community outreach programs, leading to a step-up of enforcement on the campuses.
One of the department’s key grants, from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (VA-ABC), is specifically designed to combat underage drinking and is entering its second year, according to Assistant Chief of Police George Ginovsky. The grant provides money for purchasing some equipment, but is primarily useful in providing funds for police overtime. “The grant has really allowed for increased enforcement,” says Ginovsky. “For example, at a Patriot Center concert geared toward teenagers or young people, we’ll have a regular patrol focused on the event itself, and, in addition, we are able to have an ‘ABC’ grant patrol specifically looking for alcohol-related problems.” Ginovsky notes that at Mason Day 2004, money provided by the grant allowed the police to field extra patrols and increase enforcement of alcohol laws.
Although the ABC grant enables increased enforcement, the Police Department does not carry out enforcement actions for their own sake, Ginovsky says. “Even when we do enforcement, our goal is public safety. Our goal is not to run up the numbers of arrests and referrals. Our goal is to prevent alcohol-related deaths and accidents. We don’t want to see people drink themselves to death or get in a driving accident. We are very focused on reaching out to the community and making sure they know what’s going on and why we do what we do.”
The Police Department has also received a grant that comes from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Through the COPS program, which runs for three years, the federal government provides partial funding for three additional officers, with the university matching those funds. “We don’t have to keep the three positions after the grant period ends, but we intend to,” says Ginovsky. “The department received approximately $129,000 over the course of the grant period, which is significant. We couldn’t afford to hire any additional officers without those funds.”
In addition, all Virginia public universities received funding through a $1.2 million state program to enhance homeland security, Ginovsky says. George Mason’s per capita portion amounted to $146,000, which will most likely be used to update radio technology and purchase additional equipment.
The 2004 Annual Security Report showed there were 133 arrests and 710 referrals for liquor law violations in addition to 131 arrests and 87 referrals for drug violations. There were also increases of varying degrees in the number of aggravated assaults, motor vehicle thefts, and forcible sex offenses. Weapons arrests and referrals decreased and burglary remained steady, with 18 reported both this year and last. “George Mason is a safer environment than many surrounding areas,” says Ginovsky. “I would generally classify this as a ‘low-crime’ area, though property crimes are common. However, crimes against persons are relatively rare.”
Ginovsky has some advice for members of the George Mason community to greatly decrease their chances of being a crime victim. “If faculty, staff, and students do two things, I can guarantee with 99 percent assurance that they won’t be the victim of a crime. One, don’t leave your valuables unattended in your car or in a campus building. Two, if you live on campus, lock your dorm room door, whether you are inside or not.”