Mason Police Chief Offers Tips for Campus Safety

Posted: September 12, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Chief of Police Michael Lynch
Chief Michael Lynch

University Police Chief Michael Lynch rolled his chair back from his desk and opened the door to a cabinet in his office. On the inside of the door were hand-written notes to himself, including an inventory of his personnel: He has 52 full-time police officers and 18 civilians on staff. Add on part-timers and cadets, and Lynch commands a staff of nearly 100 employees at Mason.

A show of force may be comforting, but Lynch asks for the assistance of each student, faculty and staff member at George Mason as the new academic year begins.

“We really need the people to take responsibility for their own safety and security,” said Lynch, who has been at Mason for nearly seven years. “We will help. But we rely on people to be smart and safe.”

Lynch added that Fairfax “is a very low-crime campus. We do not have a lot of violent crime. We are pretty satisfied that we have a safe and secure environment.”

Lynch does have some basic advice for students to prevent the loss of property:

  • Lock the door to your room, even if you go just down the hall for a few minutes
  • Do not leave laptops unattended, especially while in public places such as restaurants or coffee shops
  • Keep your car doors locked (parking decals are popular items for thieves)

Also, Lynch suggests that students travel in groups when going to a club off campus, and they should have a signal if one of them gets in an awkward social setting with someone they do not know.

“Have a plan if someone gets aggressive. Take care of each other. Create a ‘Get me out of here!’ signal that your friend can recognize,” said Lynch.

Lynch had extra staff on hand as students moved into residence halls the weekend of Aug. 26-27, and also on Labor Day weekend.

“At this exciting time of their lives, (students) can make very dangerous decisions. We are talking about experimenting with drugs, binge drinking and drinking and driving,” said Lynch.

The extra staff, he said, was used to help prevent problems on those weekends. Lynch noted that no student was taken to a hospital for drinking problems. “We see that as a success.”

In addition to manpower, the police are also using technology to bolster security. Mason recently received seven security cameras provided by the U.S. government as part of a pilot program that Lynch said will be tested for a few months. The cameras are placed near the Johnson Center Plaza, the Johnson Center loading dock and near the Physical Plant.

But this is not a case of “Big Brother,” said Lynch. While the new cameras are always rolling, they are programmed to alert campus police dispatchers when an unusual event occurs – for instance, said Lynch, if a truck drives on the Johnson Center Plaza at 3 a.m.

The cameras – there are now 21 on the Fairfax Campus – will not totally prevent crime, Lynch said. He noted that most bank robbers realize there are cameras in place behind each bank teller. “It doesn’t seem to stop them, does it?” asked Lynch.

For mobility on campus, his department has also tried out the Segway Human Transporter, an electric scooter. The police department had some for about 10 days in late August. Lynch said that was an experiment, and he is evaluating whether the department will use them on a regular basis.

The George Mason University Police will present Rape Aggression Defense, a two-day, 12-hour women’s self-defense course, on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24. The class is offered free to university-affiliated women, including students, faculty, vendors, alumni, contractors, staff and their family members. Class times are 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, and classes will be held in Student Union Building I, Rooms A and B, on the Fairfax Campus. To register, call 703-993-2810, or e-mail

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