ASU student safety task force focuses on Tempe

A police officer in Tempe makes a routine stop near Mill Ave. on a Saturday night. Tempe police have been ramping up their patrols this fall, using inconspicuous vehicles to attract less attention. (Photo by Dominic Valente) A police officer in Tempe makes a routine stop near Mill Avenue on a Saturday night in fall 2013. Tempe and ASU police share resources to police areas like Mill Avenue and student apartments. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

ASU’s task force on student safety spent its first year focused on the Tempe campus and surrounding areas, with plans to extend its findings to other campuses.

James Rund, senior vice president for educational outreach and student services, presented the findings to members of the Arizona Board of Regents on Monday after researching since September.

“This was particularly timely given the growth of the University, especially in Tempe,” he said.

ASU split its task force into three subcommittees focusing on public safety, university standards and community outreach. Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff and ASU Police Chief John Pickens led the public safety subcommittee.

Both departments have begun sharing resources in policing areas like the luxury student apartments near campus and the Mill Avenue district.

“We were not prepared as a police department in Tempe for these high-rise apartment complexes,” Ryff said.

In fall 2013, the city of Tempe changed its policies for the loud party corridor, an area east of Rural Road and north of Apache Boulevard where it receives the majority of its loud party calls. Many luxury student apartments, including The Mark, Gateway and Block 1949, are in that area.

The changed ordinance allows officers to immediately cite partiers without first issuing a written warning. Fines can be $250 or more on first offense and can reach up to $1,500 on subsequent offenses.

These efforts are often overshadowed by high-profile student arrests, Ryff said.

“Unfortunately, when a tragedy occurs and it involves a student, it makes the headlines,” he said. When an arrest occurs and it involves a student, it makes the headlines. What doesn’t make the headlines is what’s done behind the scenes.”

Onnie Shekerjian, vice mayor of the city of Tempe, said the University and the city have a shared interest in student safety.

“This is our community,” she said. “It is ASU’s community. It is our resident’s community, so we need to have a voice to keep it safe.”

While the city passed tougher ordinances on underage drinking, it’s looking for more opportunities to educate students and divert them from behaviors like binge drinking and driving under the influence.

“Underage drinking is not a new thing,” Shekerjian said. “We’re not interested in ruining a student’s life if they get caught drinking underage.”

The University submitted four recommendations to the board, urging it to review safety policies annually, audit public safety needs, appoint a non-voting member from the governor’s office to focus on public safety without a local bias and identify funding sources for public safety.

The task force’s ultimate goal is to ensure that all students and community residents live in safety, Shekerjian said.

“I want to know that when somebody across the country sends their student to Tempe that they’re sending them to a safe place,” she said. “I don’t want another mother to worry that Tempe is a safe place, that ASU is a safe place.”


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