By: Ben Kohane  | 

Security on Campus: NYPD Presence and Appreciation

Recent tragic events from around the world, from the brutal massacres in Paris last month to last Saturday night’s shooting in Copenhagen near a synagogue, have drawn much attention to the importance of security in the face of possible anti-Semitic violence. Here at Yeshiva University, recognition of this growing trend is more relevant than ever before. “Security concerns have been heightened as a result of [these] events,” explained a university-wide security advisory email, circulated just as the semester began. “While there have not been any specific threats to us,” the author of the email, Director of Security at YU Paul Murtha continued, “the Yeshiva University Security Department in coordination with the New York City Police Department has heightened its state of readiness.”

On campus, this state of readiness has been most visibly implemented by an increase in police presence on campus. Posted at the entrances to school buildings, dormitories, and at the corner of 185th Street and Amsterdam Avenue at both scheduled and intermittent times, police officers provide an extra layer of security awareness and crime deterrent. Additionally, the YU Alert system, which notifies all students, employees, and other members of the campus community of emergency circumstances on campus, has been utilized several times in the past couple of months. According to the YU Security website, the notification system, which sends out text messages, voice messages, and emails, is used to notify its subscribers of “situations [which] present a threat to community safety at any of our campuses, when there are major facility or campus closures, and timely warnings of criminal activity.”

It is important to realize that “the safety of our campuses isn’t driven solely by episodes or threats of violence,” as Paul Oestreicher, Director of Communications speaking for the Security Department, explained. “Safety and security are matters of paramount importance and are evaluated here on an ongoing basis.” Though Dr. Oestreicher was unable to delve into the details of YU’s security arrangements – in order to protect the integrity of these plans – he did assure that “a number of behind-the-scenes changes have taken place in recent years and there will be some visible changes beyond the uniformed officers coming soon.”

Some students, like YC senior Arel Levkovich, “appreciate the increase in the presence of police officers on the Wilf Campus.” Despite the recent controversy over police behavior in the media, Levkovich continued, “I feel safer with them around – especially when we consider the many anti-Semitic attacks that have been occurring around the world lately. YU can easily be seen as a target.”

“I think that when we have to protect ourselves for who we are, that's when you know that something is fundamentally wrong,” echoed Alan Verbitzky (YC ‘15). “However, I do think that YU is doing very well strategically, because most institutions wait for something to happen in order to increase security, instead of acting preemptively.”

Others, like YC senior Herschel Singer, say “that the increased presence has come as a bit of a surprise. I have never felt unsafe or threatened throughout my time living in the Heights.” While the officers have not actively contributed to security protocols, Singer admits that “perhaps their mere presence may be their impact.”

YU’s student government and Office of Student Life have certainly recognized the significance of the recent events from around the world and the importance of the New York Police Department’s contributions to our campus security. YSU President Natan Szegedi and Stern’s TAC President Amanda Esraelian joined Vice President of University and Community Life Rabbi Kenneth Brander on a recent two-day solidarity mission to visit Paris, along with Jewish community leaders from all across America. In a radio interview with JM in the AM, Esraelian described that “it was extremely eye-opening to see…everything that Jews in France have to face on a day-to-day basis.”

These actions also carried over to campus itself. According to Hezzy Jesin, the Wilf Campus Director of Student Life, “the presidents had a discussion about recognizing the integral role the NYPD plays in creating a safe environment in which we can pursue our studies, practice our religion, and take part in a robust, Jewish campus life.” While a visit was made to the local precinct in midtown near the Beren campus, logistic issues prevented a similar visit to the local 34th precinct. Instead, an official Appreciation Effort initiative was launched. As Shai Berman, senior and YCSA president, explained, “We asked students to stop by and sign their name on a YU shirt, which we will have framed and given to our local NYPD precinct as a symbol of our appreciation for their constant efforts.” Indeed, after only three days of tabling in Rubin Lounge, the shirt was completely filled with signatures. “While this route may have been less personal,” Berger continued, “in the end, it might be more permanent and impactful. Hopefully, our gift will be displayed in the precinct and serve as a constant reminder of YU students' gratitude for NYPD and their work in keeping us safe.”

While the news of shootings near Jewish supermarkets or synagogues is difficult to understand, it is simultaneously important to “live with the constant awareness that our safety, no matter where we may be, must not be taken for granted,” as Berman wrote in his email to the student body explaining the NYPD Appreciation Effort. Indeed, campus security looks to continue to be one of the most important and focal aspects of the university.