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July, 2019

Public Safety Continues to Enhance Campus Security

By Mary McCarthy

Public Safety Officer Lashaun Lowery looks over the equipment in the backup campus-security nerve center established in the Columbus School of Law this summer.

Some might think that summer would be a slow season for CUA’s Department of Public Safety since most students aren’t on campus then, but au contraire. The department’s staff has been working throughout the summer to install new security systems and devices in preparation for the return of students.

The installation of a public-address alert system in 23 key locations throughout campus is nearly complete. It should be finalized by mid-September, at which time public safety plans to test the system with the campus community present. The loudspeaker alerts will consist of brief messages communicating an emergency or present danger on campus. Catholic University will be the first university in the District of Columbia to employ this kind of outdoor announcement system.

Thomasine Johnson, director of public safety, emphasizes that the all-campus public address is not replacing the university’s use of the DC Alert text messaging system or any of its other emergency notification methods; it is a redundancy being put into place to ensure that emergency messages are disseminated as widely and rapidly as possible throughout the community. Other systems in place to communicate emergencies include fire alarms; announcements sent over e-mail and voicemail; alert messages on the CUA Web page ( and the Safety First Web page (; public announcements broadcast from public safety vehicles; and verbal announcements made by foot patrol officers and each university building’s watch captains, area captains, resident assistants and area coordinators.

In addition, technology has been acquired this summer to deliver emergency alerts through the campus’ cable television service. Later this year the university will be able to interrupt all programs on all channels to issue a message to the university in cases of emergency.

Last year, cameras were installed around campus, enabling the public safety office to monitor outdoor activity on closed-circuit television 24 hours a day. Five new cameras were installed recently to monitor key spots such as the McMahon Hall parking lot and a vehicular entrance to campus that didn’t previously have a camera.

Several new outdoor emergency phones were also installed over the summer and some of the older phones were replaced. Two of the newest phone stanchions, which include the public-address alert capability, were installed near the athletic fields of the Raymond A. DuFour Center. They are the emergency phones located farthest from the Department of Public Safety headquarters. There are now more than 120 emergency phones on CUA’s campus.

The Department of Public Safety has recently opened a backup “nerve center,” complete with closed-circuit camera surveillance screens, in the Columbus School of Law on the east side of campus. This location will enable the entire safety operation to relocate if the main nerve center on the west side of campus is rendered inoperable in an emergency situation.

Several new outdoor emergency phone stanchions, like this one, were installed over the summer, bringing the total number of emergency phones at CUA to more than 120.
Aside from bringing in new technology to help keep students safe, public safety is also working with students to make them more aware of how to stay safe. Crime prevention programs will be conducted in the residence halls.

The number of instructors in the popular RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) program has increased from two to five this year. The purpose of the class is to teach females viable self-defense options so they can escape attack situations. (A program schedule will be posted at by September.)

The university also has worked to make the process of arriving at CUA smoother for incoming freshmen. Since the university has been expecting its largest freshman class ever, long lines were foreseen for students picking up their university IDs. Teaming up with CUA’s Center for Planning and Information Technology, the Department of Public Safety created a secure program through which students could upload a photo of themselves so that their IDs could be created ahead of time and be ready for them when they arrived on campus. At least 40 percent of new freshmen, transfer students and law students chose to take advantage of this opportunity.

To assist in day-to-day operations, last March the Department of Public Safety hired Cheryl Pendergast as associate director, a new position that works with the department’s administrative services and with its patrol officers. (Click here to read more about Pendergast.)

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Last Revised 20-Aug-08 03:27 PM.