Public Safety: they always seem to be there to shut down improv shows and boot you off the lawns, but never when you’re walking home bleary-eyed from Butler at 3am. As if you didn’t already have to reassure your parents of your safety in the big bad city, now you can go home for Thanksgiving dinner and admit that, yes, some very scary crimes have occurred recently. Yesterday, Public Safety published a security alert to their website about a suspect who followed a student into Ruggles before demanding the victim’s iPhone. Today Dean Martinez emailed this alert to all students and attached a two page statement from James McShane, Vice President of Public Safety. He discusses the spike in crime, especially along 114th St, the measures Public Safety is taking in response, and how security has improved over the past semester. Here’s the shorter version:

  • More security on West 114th: Public Safety has deployed another patrol vehicle and security officer to patrol the street on foot “during the evening hours.” Changes will be in effect “begin[ning] at 4 pm and will continue until 3 am each night.” Note that the most recent crime occurred after the additional  vehicle was deployed, but Public Safety did not specify if that vehicle was on patrol at the time of the crime.
  • NYPD: Public Safety is working with the NYPD to bring “additional personnel, both uniformed and plain clothes, to help increase security in the 114th street area.” No word yet on what exactly this entails or the extent of this partnership.
  • Security cameras: Currently, Public Safety has 24 hour surveillance of all residence halls where “all students and visitors are screened” along with 24-hour video surviellance. Yet despite this, the perpetrator was able to enter Ruggles on Monday, a building where the security guard is actually far away from the main entrance.
  • Increased patrol on campus: Due to the crimes, security is being bolstered all over campus. The guards at the main gates on 116th and Broadway and Amsterdam are both staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week, together with “foot and motorized patrols.”
  • Public Safety emphasizes that there are two 24-hour emergency operation centers, one on each campus. For the Morningside campuses, in event of an emergency, call 212-854-5555. For non-emergencies, call 212-854-2797. You can also reach Public Safety at any of the emergency call boxes on campus—all are connected to Public Safety 24/7.
  • If you’re anywhere between 108th and 122nd between 7 pm and 3 am, you can call 212-854-SAFE to request a foot escort, or  ride Columbia’s evening shuttle, which runs from 6 pm to 4 am.

In the past few weeks you have received several Security Alerts regarding crimes in our community. In particular, there has been a series of robberies and attempted robberies on W. 114th Street. I am writing to let you know that the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, as well as others in our community, is our top priority. I would also like to share with you some of the things that the Department of Public Safety is doing to safeguard our campus, and the 114th Street area in particular, in order to help allay any concerns that you may have on the issue of safety here at Columbia.

Since this summer, we have increased our motorized patrol coverage of the community through the deployment of five additional patrol vehicles during the evening hours, including an additional supervisor. In response to the incidents that have taken place on West 114th Street over the past couple of weeks, we deployed another patrol vehicle, beginning last Friday evening. This patrol, which is operated by a uniformed supervisor, is assigned to the immediate area where these incidents have occurred. Additionally, there is a uniformed security officer assigned on foot to 114th Street during the evening hours. Effective immediately, we are extending this coverage during the investigation of these incidents. It will now begin at 4 P.M. and will continue until 3 A.M. each night. In addition to these enhanced patrols, we are working closely with our colleagues in the 26th precinct in their efforts to apprehend the persons responsible for these crimes. I have spoken with the Commanding Officer of the 26th Precinct, Captain David Ehrenberg, who has informed me that he will be deploying additional personnel, both uniformed and plain clothes, to help increase safety in the 114th Street area. Let me also take this opportunity to provide you with information about some of the many other initiatives that Public Safety has implemented in order to make our community safer.

Uniformed Public Safety personnel are stationed at fixed locations throughout the Morningside area and on the uptown Medical Center campus. These include guard booths at the main gates on 116th Street at both Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, which are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These posts are supplemented by foot and motorized patrols, including those described above, that provide a highly visible presence in the areas around both campuses. We also work very closely with neighboring institutions including Barnard College, Bank Street College, Jewish Theological Seminary, Manhattan School of Music, Teachers College, and Union Theological Seminary, to share information and to increase the number of eyes and ears throughout our community.

All of our undergraduate residences are staffed by Public Safety personnel or trained student aides who control access to these buildings on a 24-hour basis. All students and visitors are screened. We also operate two 24-hour emergency operations centers, one on each campus. On the Morningside campus, we can be reached in an emergency by dialing 212-854-5555 on any phone. For routine business, you can reach us by calling 212-854-2797. At the Medical Center, the emergency response number is 212-305-7979.

There is also an extensive system of video cameras that we use to investigate crimes. In addition, emergency call boxes that connect directly to our 24 hour operations centers are installed in strategic locations across both campuses and surrounding areas. Our staff of highly trained investigators works hand in hand with the N.Y.P.D. to investigate matters that relate to the Columbia campuses. We are presently working closely with the N.Y.P.D. in support of the current investigations. We also employ a number of Crime Prevention Initiatives to help ensure personal safety. For example, we operate a Morningside Heights evening shuttle service that provides scheduled service through the Morningside campus area every evening, between 6:00 P.M. and 4:00 A.M. This services consists of two A.D.A. accessible buses that operate on two different 30 minute loops. The shuttle schedule and routes are available on the Public Safety website or at

We also offer a foot escort service where trained students will accompany you to your door any time from 7:00 P.M. until 3:00 A.M. This service is available between 108th Street and 122nd Street. At the Medical Center, escorts are available between W. 165th Street and W. 181st Street. For either of these services, call 212-854-SAFE on the Morningside Campus and 212-305-8100 at the Medical Center.

Operation “Safe Haven” provides more than 65 storefront locations across all three campuses where people who may feel threatened can take refuge. The merchants will call Public Safety and/or the N.Y.P.D. who will respond immediately. Look for the “Red Lion” sticker in the window of the store.

My team and I are here to keep you safe and sound. We look forward to working together with all of you, not only to keep our environment as safe as it is, but also to make our students, faculty and staff – and their families – feel safe.