GVPD collaborates with surrounding police departments

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Lanthorn File Photo

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Lanthorn File Photo

Hannah Lentz

With a campus in Allendale and a campus in Grand Rapids, the Grand Valley State University Police Department (GVPD) has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to student safety. In order to provide students with the safest possible situation, collaborating with surrounding police departments is a necessary task.

On the Allendale Campus, GVPD works closely with Ottawa County police. In the past, the two stations have been more closely associated as GVSU officers received police authority from Ottawa County. In 2001, GVPD was declared self-empowered, meaning that GVPD could swear in its own police officers through the university.

However, GVPD continues to maintain a strong, long-lasting working relationship with Ottawa County, said Brandon DeHaan, GVPD captain.

“We share information with each other as there are a number of students who live off campus,” DeHaan said. “This way, we can see if there are any trends regarding crime and we meet with (Ottawa County police) on a regular basis to have those discussions.”

Currently, around 6,200 students live on the Allendale Campus and approximately 7,000 students live in areas surrounding the Allendale Campus. If there are large-scale issues on campus or at close, off-campus locations, GVPD will enlist the help of Ottawa County and vice versa.

“We have a significant student population living in a small, designated area between the Allendale Campus and surrounding apartment complexes. It makes good sense to collaborate with partners to identify if there are any issues out there,” DeHaan said.

GVPD’s collaborative patrol area includes property such as Lake Michigan Drive, 48th Avenue and Pierce Street, as well as all on-campus locations.

“We will assist Ottawa County if there is a crime with a large disturbance or large group that may impact the community as well,” DeHaan said. “Instances of self-harm, fires off campus, or the need for notification of a family member because of a death will lead to collaboration.”

Ottawa County also provides resources such as a K9 unit when tracking or drug detection services are needed, DeHaan said.

The annual Youth Alcohol Enforcement Grant also comes through the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. With this grant, the university is better able to limit the size of potentially dangerous gatherings and increase patrol at large-scale events such as football games and homecoming weekend.

Pew Campus Security faces a different form of cooperation. Due to the location of Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids, campus security works in association with the Grand Rapids Police Department in certain instances.

One of the main examples of this partnership is through the sharing of information. Often, Grand Rapid’s police officers need to communicate with Pew Campus officers to obtain all possible information. Since Russell Wolff, assistant chief of Pew Campus Security, came to GVSU in 2009, he said he has seen an expanded relationship with the Grand Rapids Police Department.

“Our relationship is a very good one,” Wolff said. “We work with all emergency response departments from the fire department to the Grand Rapids Police Department.”

On the downtown campus, the main area that requires collaboration lies in bike larcenies.

“Individuals often come from surrounding community and steal student’s bicycles on the Pew Campus,” Wolff said. “What we have done is set up a program where we register bicycles with a GPS system and talk to the Grand Rapids Police Department to find the bicycle and where the rider is going so we can make an arrest if needed.”

Another area of focus is on homeless individuals who come onto campus and panhandle students.

Though Pew Campus Security is in close proximity to areas that the Grand Rapids police responds to, they usually do not respond to off-campus instances.

“We don’t have the same responsibility because we are not sworn (in),” Wolff said. “We are just a set of eyes and ears for the Grand Rapids police.”

During the instances of attempted robbery that students were alerted to on the downtown campus this summer, security has worked closely with surrounding police authority using specialized tools and additional officers to keep an eye on the area Wolff said.

“It is important to know that the Grand Rapids Police Department is just as concerned about the safety of students as we are on campus,” Wolff said.