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On safety and security around DLSU

Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time — not with the cases of theft in and around campus, modus operandi, violence in nearby establishments and spots of illegal substances sneaked into the University.

Alecs Ongcal2

Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time — not with the cases of theft in and around campus, modus operandi, violence in nearby establishments and spots of illegal substances sneaked into the University.

Publicized kidnapping reports within Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines Diliman aren’t assuring either. A notable 1994 case involving the kidnap and attempted murder of a DLSU student in Quezon City was just resolved in 2010.

According to Malate Police Station Commander Mannan Muarip, kidnappings involving Lasallians are rare, but incidences of theft and robbery are the most common in Manila District 9 for 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Incidences of theft in Malate reached an aggregate of 60 cases for July to November 2013 alone, according to the police station’s records. This represents 20 percent of theft cases in the entire district during that time period.

21 robbery cases were recorded in the same area and time period, representing around 16 percent of Malate’s robbery cases at that time.

Between December 2013 to January 2014 alone, there have been five reported incidents involving Lasallians in the Fidel Reyes area. Three involved light physical injury, one involved snatching, and another involved theft, according to Esmeralda Funes, secretary of Brgy. 709 Zone 78 station of Fidel Reyes St.

Kagawad Rey de los Santos of Brgy. 726 Zone 79 station of Leon Guinto mentions that though their barangay is relatively peaceful, there were around 6 cases of theft or robbery involving Lasallian victims last year, out of the 10 instances recorded in the barangay blotter.

 

Within DLSU’s walls

Lasallian students are susceptible to hostile surroundings, so the University’s Safety and Security Office (SSO) handles outside cases involving Lasallians, and upholds security within the campus and its immediate surroundings.

According to SSO’s records over the past two academic years, there were 11 reported cases of robbery, 12 cases of theft, and a brawl. These usually involve a Lasallian student and an outsider.

“Ang pinakamataas na theft ngayon ay salisi, dahil walang commotion [The most frequent kind of theft is the salisi, because it is unnoticeable],” states SSO Director Dionisio Escarez. Due to the discreet nature of the operation, the SSO sends spotters to nearby establishments to keep an eye on potential thieves.

Aside from SSO, the Student Discipline Formation Office (SDFO) plays a role in campus safety, especially when handling students involved in major conduct offenses within the University and its outside functions.

Since the SDFO enforces the student handbook policies on discipline formation, its jurisdiction is limited to students. “We work hand in hand with SSO in securing safety and security in DLSU,” the SDFO clarifies. “Our coordination with SSO extends especially on cases involving outsiders / non-Lasallian students.”

Over the past four academic years, the SDFO has recorded a total of 57 resolved cases involving stealing, according to their official records. There were a total of 10 cases in AY 2009-10, 19 in AY 2010-11, 10 in AY 2011-12 and 11 in AY 2012-13. Stealing was the second most common major conduct offense in AY 2012-13, second to gross acts of disrespect.

Students found in possession of liquor within campus was the third most common major conduct offense, with a total of 20 confirmed cases, followed by students found in possession of illegal drugs, with a total of 19 confirmed cases.

Over the third quarter of 2013, there was an Engineering student caught entering the campus under the influence of liquor, as well as a Business student caught with drugs.

There were 15 recorded in AY 2011-12, and 3 in AY 2012-13 for unauthorized possession/use of drugs. For liquor, there were 14 cases for AY 2009-10, 2 cases for AY 2010-11, and 4 cases for AY 2011-12.

The SDFO recounts other incidents wherein drug evidences were left within DLSU, presumably for pickup. These were often found by an unintended recipient, thus commonly ending up in the University’s Lost and Found.

Brawls, direct assault and physical injury cases among students are less common, constituting 31 confirmed cases for the past three academic years.

These statistics only include confirmed cases.

 

University efforts

Growing security concerns also prompted shifts in DLSU’s security agencies, to accommodate DLSU’s expanding population and surroundings. Over the past three years, the University changed from Right 8 to Aglipay in 2012, and from Aglipay to Commander in the last quarter of 2013.

According to Escarez, on top of enforcing standard security protocols (regular security roving, ID scanning, visitor’s pass, gate security checks), the SSO convenes in a multisectoral group called Task Force Safe School, working with the University Student Government, SDFO, Mayor’s office, Manila Police and nearby barangays to maintain safety within Malate.

The Task Force will revive meetings later this January, and emphasizes the need for further participation of students in the council meetings.

The SDFO acts and investigates on reports formally filed at SDFO, whether the complainant comes within or outside the University. The SDFO clarifies, “We only process minor discipline cases, the University Panel for Case Conference for cases with full admission and Student Discipline Formation Board for cases with full denial/partial denial and admission… [The SDFB] on the other hand has jurisdiction over major discipline cases.”

Muarip explains that they do encounter Lasallians in possession/under the influence of drugs, and immediately forward it to DLSU. The University and the SDFO developed their own drug protocol for cases like these. The protocol taps the clinic, SSO, administrators outside rehabilitation centers and accredited clinics.

In addition, the SDFO holds seminars for SSO and DLSU, covering topics such as spotting students who are in possession/under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and other discipline learning sessions.

 

Security concerns, frisking

Sacha Villanueva (MTH-BAP, III) finds the high theft rates alarming. “A [stricter] implementation of security measures should be implemented. For me, it is not the lack and the lapse of security measures that should be reformed. Rather it is should be the effective way of executing it.”

Villanueva is not alone in her concerns. There have been complaints about inconsistencies in entry inspection. Even with stricter policies, rushing and long queues in between classes hardly allow for proper inspections.

Escarez acknowledges that sometimes, some guards can be inconsistent, but reiterates to his staff the importance of consistent strictness. “Dapat laging strict ang security, hindi pag may report lang [Security should always be strict, not just when there are reports or threats],” he says.

Initial reports involving a staff member caught with a gun in-campus circulated early December last year. Escarez states that the SSO is aware of this, but has yet to confirm and link definitive evidence the alleged person. He laments that it would be regrettable, because staff are uniformed, trusted members of the community, and the guards are familiar with them.

For substances sneaked into DLSU, Escarez explains that they catch more for liquor, but for drugs, the quantities brought in are often small, and difficult to detect with existing security protocols. There is no mandate for frisking procedures, unless a report has been filed against a particular individual. He furthers that introducing frisking policies could likely stir complaints from the community.

 

Buckle up

Altogether, preexisting risk rates in Malate, reported incidents in other Universities and potentially dangerous lapses are factors leading to tightened security measures announced last December, which mandated stricter luggage and vehicle inspection upon entry. Also, it reinforced the existing mandatory ID scanning policy for not just students, but also faculty and staff.

Despite this, Lady Vicencio (CAM, III) remains wary about overlooked CCTV cameras. “You can actually see in the security department in South Gate that most of the cameras do not work anymore,” she says, adding that she feels that CCTV cameras are needed in densely populated areas in the University.

The inconsistent availability of CCTVs raised eyebrows around the same time last year, where two Liberal Arts students lost laptops on separate incidents in campus, respectively.

Though widely believed to be an SSO initiative, many cameras are procured by the Facilities office, and maintained by the Mechanical and Electrical Works office. Escarez clarifies that procurement and maintenance powers are not under the SSO, unlike before, where they directly contacted the suppliers and maintenance crew.

He expresses that the cameras would greatly help their office and tracking down perpetuators. He explains that many CCTVs around St. La Salle Hall have been damaged during the retrofitting in 2011, and assures that CCTV replacements were already included in the plan last year.

 

Participation

Despite this, safety and security departments stress the importance of observing basic safety principles to minimize these incidences.

Regarding theft, James Lim (IV, BS-PSYC) observes, “Unang-una, lapse ba siya in security or kasalanan ng student? I’ve seen students who leave around their bags, laptops, etc. unguarded.”

Improvements are long due, but security, formation offices and information campaigns can only do so much. Practicing basic safety measures should also be the community’s prerogative —especially when danger is much closer than initially thought.

By Michelle Sta Romana

By Marguit Tolentino

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