Webinar Review: Combatting Security Challenges of an Urban University

In the January 30 webinar, “Combatting Security Challenges of an Urban University,” Maureen Rush, University of Pennsylvania vice president for public safety and superintendent of Penn Police, discussed how the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) used security to overcome negative perception.

In the mid-1990s, Penn’s application numbers were down, thanks in part to parents’ concerns about its location in West Philadelphia, an urban area known for violent crime. Wanting to avoid the stigma that plagues many higher education institutions while continuing to foster its unique urban open-campus environment, the university had to figure out how to combat the image of a great school in a bad location.

The solution was a neighborhood initiative program that looked beyond campus security. As a result, Penn has been ranked No. 1 in the higher education sector in Security 500 for seven consecutive years.

During the webinar, Rush shared the framework for building Penn’s neighborhood initiative program, as well as how to build and gain support from the community “beyond the university walls.” She emphasized unique ways to partner with local law enforcement to meet both organizations’ needs and how to grow professionalism within their teams. Rush also showcased the return on investment for Penn and its University City neighbors through the effective use of human resources, technology, and urban planning. In other words, a wide range of initiatives.

“When people [asking about the success of Penn’s neighborhood initiative program] ask me, “Was it because you added more University Police? Is it technology? Or anything else you can name that public safety did, the answer is always, ‘It is not just about putting more boots on the street; it is not about technology; it is about the full picture.” To hear about the “full picture” that created Penn’s notable turn-around, listen to the archived webinar on-demand now! 

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