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Safety at Suffolk University: in light of recent events

Suffolk University’s Police Department strives everyday to keep Suffolk students safe, a seemingly impossible task in today’s society where shootings are on the rise in the United States. Two weeks ago, 14 people were left dead in San Bernardino, with at least 17 others wounded.

On December 2nd, a man and a woman, heavily armed, walked into the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health’s holiday party and opened fire on the crowd. Later identified as husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple was killed hours later in a shootout with police.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan stated in an interview with ABC that the male shooter was a co-worker of the people attending the holiday party and left before returning to kill.

“They came prepared to do what they did, as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said.

This kind of event is a harsh reality to many Americans, but kind of tragedy is not all that uncommon in the United States. This most recent event is the second deadliest mass shooting in the country since an attack in Connecticut, three years earlier.

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the Connecticut school shooting where twenty elementary school students and six adults were killed, the Mass Shooting Tracker has identified 142 more school shootings in the United States. 52 have occurred in 2015 alone.

Thankfully, Suffolk University has never fallen victim to any of these kinds of mass shootings, nor any terror attack. While knives and other similar weapons have been confiscated by the SUPD and Residence Life  staff, no firearms have been found on campus according to a campus spokesperson. Though this is perhaps due to the lack of student space or “real” campus of Suffolk University, it is due largely in part to the Suffolk University’s Police Department, who are on call 24/7 and make considerable efforts to stay up to speed on which precautions and measures to take.

In a joint interview with Suffolk’s Police Chief Gerard Coletta and Vice President of Marketing and Communications Greg Gatlin, the two spoke of the police’s active presence at the university.

Every dorm building has security guards on duty that swipe students in, checking bags and persons if they notice suspicious behavior. Students can contact the Suffolk Police at any time to report incidents or concerning behaviors. SUPD provides an escort service, where students can be taken to their destination with a police chaperon.

Coletta was appointed Chief in 2013 after more than 20 years with the Massachusetts State Police, and said his mission from the beginning was to keep students safe by working with the Boston Police Department. He commented that it takes a lot of effort from both the university and the Boston PD.

After situations like the one in California earlier this month, and especially school shootings like the one at an Oregon college campus earlier this year, the university can’t help but be effected.

In a statement sent to all the students and professors, Suffolk President Margaret McKenna stated the university “stand[s] with colleagues in grief over yet another senseless killing of innocent people on one of our nation’s campuses” after the year’s earlier campus shooting in Oregon.

The SUPD stands with this sentiment, and works to ensure safety by consistently evolving in their practices, meeting with the Boston Police Department at least twice a month according to Gatlin.

Much of the safety the SUPD strives to provide actually hinges on the city’s police department. The Suffolk Police, while armed, does not equip their officers with any firearm. The university never had armed officers, instead, working closely with the BPD in cases of emergencies.

Gatlin continued to say, “Given our physical location in downtown Boston, we are immediately adjacent to the Boston Police Department, State Police and Capital Police. [We’ve] established a strong working relationship with each of these entities and [we’re] confident in getting a rapid response whenever necessary.”

The Suffolk Police also urged the university’s students to talk about any concerns they may have – about other students or themselves – to the counselors Suffolk provides in the Health and Wellness center in order to stop terror situations before they happen.

“Suffolk University has an excellent Counseling, Health and Wellness Center” said Gatlin, “[They have a] well-trained staff that are available to assist any student.”

Despite these advancements with mental health treatment, attacks persist, and millions of people regard this issue not as one of security weakness, but one of gun control in the United States. With the increasingly common occurrence of these shootings and the upcoming presidential election in the U.S., this topic becomes more and more relevant.

The Suffolk Police department declined to comment on the issue of gun rights, but assures students and faculty that despite not being armed, they are fully capable of prevent tragedies like the attack in California earlier this month.

Many guns-rights activists disagree with this stance, however, and have urged more citizens to arm themselves, claiming citizens should be armed in order to stop these attacks.

Gun control supporters like founder of the organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, Mark Kelly, have instead criticized the fact that 40 percent of guns are sold without background checks. This, according to Kelly and other activists, makes it incredibly easy for guns to go into the hands of the wrong people, and in turn let events like the California shooting possible. He also pointed out that there are fewer deaths from gun violence in states that have laws restricting firearm sales and ownership.

“The idea is where there are more guns, people are less safe,” Kelly told CNN, “If you have a gun in any kind of situation where things start to get heated, there’s a higher likelihood that somebody’s going to get shot.”

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