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Fast growth means challenges

UNM police officer Dennis Trujillo, left, and Sgt. Nina Fox, right, leave after responding to a call on campus this week. The university has 31 officers. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
UNM police officer Dennis Trujillo, left, and Sgt. Nina Fox, right, leave after responding to a call on campus this week. The university has 31 officers. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
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UNM Police Patrolman Dennis Trujillo,,left talks to Dr. Ellen Coman,, while responding to a call at the UNM Neuro-Psychology Department on Tuesday August 6, 2013 . (Adolphe Pierre-Louis-Journal)

UNM Police Patrolman Dennis Trujillo, left talks to Dr. Ellen Coman, while responding to a call at the UNM Neuro-Psychology Department on Tuesday August 6, 2013. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

At any given time, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 people on the University of New Mexico campus.

And there are 31 university police officers to protect them.

Police chief Kathy Guimond says that like any other police department, UNM’s could always use more officers. But she’s grateful to have this many, especially because this many is four more officers than she had last year. The department got a nearly $200,000 budget increase for this fiscal year, for a total of about $2.9 million for the year.

Still, the tremendous growth in on-campus student housing, including Lobo Village in South Campus, coupled with increased enrollment, has posed new challenges for the small department. The department has a total of 41 employees, including Guimond and support staff.

“One of the things we try to do that we do with everything and especially with the budget is plan ahead. So what we’re trying to do is forecast where are things going,” Guimond said.

UNM police responded to more than 7,500 calls between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year. In 2012, officers responded to fewer than 6,350 calls in the same time period.

President Bob Frank says despite the small police force and heavy foot traffic, UNM is very safe.

“It is a haven among us. … We think carefully about how we make this the safest environment for our students, our faculty and our staff,” Frank said.

Added Guimond: “We are very lucky with respect to violent crime on campus and crimes against persons. … I don’t want to give people a false sense of security that it never happens, because it can and that potential is always there, with awareness, by the way, being the best preventative thing we have.”

The bulk of UNM police reports concern property, and not violent, crimes. For example, in 2011 there were 57 reported vehicle thefts, 20 drug arrests and 19 burglaries, data show. There were 10 reported aggravated assaults and two reported rapes.

With the exception of burglaries, those figures don’t differ greatly from 2004, when there were three reported rapes, 45 vehicle thefts, 33 burglaries and six aggravated assaults. Numbers for this year and last year were not available. But three high profile attacks on women early this year caught the community’s attention.

In one incident, a woman who had been running at Johnson Field was assaulted by two men. A week later, a woman was groped while walking near Castetter Hall. And in the third case, a professor was beaten while trying to help a drunken man. The man was charged with three counts of misdemeanor battery. He has pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

The university responded by hosting a series of forums, and, later, self-defense workshops. Police have made no arrests on the two sexual assault incidents, a spokesman said.

Another major concern is the growing South Campus, where about 900 students live in Lobo Village. South Campus also includes the Pit and other sports arenas, along with offices.

It’s not just the increase in calls from that area but also the amount of time it takes to get there from main campus that is worrisome for Guimond. She says there aren’t any plans for a substation in the area, but that could become an option as UNM develops more vacant land there.

The department will tackle its most time-consuming crimes with a new online program for reporting property offenses. It is to go live before the semester starts on Aug. 19.

“It’s one less call that the officer would have to respond to,” Guimond said. “It gives immediate service to the public and to the students. It helps us become a little bit more efficient.”

Journal staff writer Patrick Lohmann contributed to this report.

 

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