University Policing September 27, 2011Posted by cbackman in övervakning, Policing, Uncategorized.
I’m spending two weeks as visiting faculty at the Department of Sociology and Criminology, at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The University of Gothenburg and UNCW are “partner universities” and I’m here to give lectures to their students and to learn more about their university education system.
When I first arrived to UNCW last Friday I noticed a police car at the parking lot beside the building I’m staying in. The car was marked “UNCW Police”. The next day I took a walk around campus and noticed that there were a lot of emergency posts all over campus. When I awhile later was asked about my first impression of campus I had to mention both the police car and the emergency posts. I was told that whenever you are standing by a post you are supposed to see at least one other. I have checked and in most cases there are at least three other posts within sight.
So how is a Swede supposed to interpret this? Well, my first thought went to my colleagues who do police research (we’ll see if Mattias can provide a post on this topic later on), and my second thought concerned the picture we often get of Americans as obsessed with security and safety issues (and with not getting sued if something happens). The people I have talked to here do not seem to think of them as a representation of an overprotective society, merely as an artefact that is just there, like lamp posts or mailboxes. I have not had the chance to speak to the police yet so I don’t know if they are ever used.
I find the following numbers interesting from a comparative perspective:
UNCW has about 13 000 students, University of Gothenburg has about 39 000.
UNCW has their own police force, which employs 35 “sworn police officers”, 7 telecommunicators, five full time security guards, fifteen part-time security guards and 2 civilian staff members. University of Gothenburg has of course no police force since private police forces are not allowed in Sweden. The University of Gothenburg uses security guards but the numbers are not available since this is contracted service and they are not employed by the university.
The people I have talked to so far describe the campus as a safe area, they are not afraid to be victimized, and they do not see the relatively large police division as caused by a great need to control crime on campus. Judging from the crimes filed in their log, it seems like a reasonable conclusion. I’m still struggling to understand what 35 police officers do in order to not be bored during a shift, but if I get the chance I will interview them and find out.
By the way, when I walked home the other they I encountered a baby snake on the side-walk. I didn’t know what to do. Is it common with snakes on campus? Are they harmless or dangerous? Should you alert someone? As I continued my walk home, careful of where I put my feet, it suddenly struck me that I probably could have used the nearest emergency post! I would most probably have received a good, polite and proper treatment. After all, as it says on the website: “The safety of every member of our campus community is our top priority.” I’m sure that it includes calming phobic visiting faculty members from Sweden.