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National Center for Campus Public Safety

Campus Policing in an Urban Environment

Download the forum report.
According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, most Americans live in urban areas with only about one in five people living in rural areas. Urban areas are also home to 68% of the nation’s 7,000+ institutions of higher education (IHEs). In addition to educating students, urban IHEs are often the biggest employers in their cities; many house state-of-the-art research facilities; and others provide critical medical facilities, operate highly regarded cultural venues, fund vital community projects, and advocate for various community-development initiatives.

Nonetheless, urban IHEs also face special challenges when it comes to safety and policing efforts. Denser populations, space constraints, infrastructure issues, and other characteristics common in urban areas are all factors. Urban IHEs that fail to keep their campuses safe can jeopardize student admission and retention efforts, make it harder to attract and retain talented employees, and even endanger funding efforts, all of which can in turn threaten the surrounding community’s economic vitality.

To identify and further discuss the challenges specific to campus policing in urban environments, as well as provide potential solutions and recommendations for addressing those challenges, the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) facilitated a one-day forum. The forum aligns with the NCCPS’s role as a nationwide resource for addressing critical issues in campus safety. On August 1, 2017, a group of 36 campus safety leaders from 17 IHEs, federal officials, and several campus safety-related professional associations gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Queens University to consider these key questions:

  • What can urban campus police departments do to provide better safety services to students, faculty, and staff?
  • How can urban campus police departments balance their IHEs’ safety needs with the goals and needs of the surrounding communities?
  • Are there other ways urban campus police departments can optimize their resources?

Key takeaways and conclusions from the forum discussions, including promising practices that urban campus police departments can implement to improve safety in their IHE communities, constitute the principal findings of this report.


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