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The debate for campus police at Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University, the famed medical school and Baltimore icon, is taking big steps towards addressing the safety of their students by pushing for a bill that would allow them to establish their own police force on campus.

Baltimore public universities like Coppin and Morgan State already have their own campus police forces, but private institutions like Johns Hopkins are not lawfully able to have one. This could all change if this bill is passed. The bill would give all higher education private institutions in Baltimore the authority to establish private campus police forces.

Senator Joan Conway, a Democrat from Baltimore, and former Baltimore police commander Melissa Hyatt, who is now serving as the Johns Hopkins University’s vice president of security, have both publicly voiced their support for the bill. They are helping it gain more momentum in the Senate, where it is currently being discussed.

The passing of this bill would, in theory, allow students to feel safer and more secure on their campus, which is something every student expects to receive in return for the thousands of dollars they pay in tuition. In addition, given the current political environment regarding gun violence at schools, it is important to make sure all students feel that their schools are ‘safe spaces’ especially when they are located in the heart of a major American city.

Although the crimes committed in Baltimore City as a whole center more around homicides, the Johns Hopkins crime log lists theft and assault as the main offenses committed on campus.

However, would establishing a campus police force result in a truly significant change? “[Here at UMBC], I do not ever see [the UMBC police] on campus itself, just in their cars parked on the roads sometimes. They do not really seem to have a presence,” says Jessica Fattouche, a freshman biology major.

Coppin State University in northwestern Baltimore has had 28 thefts, 10 assaults, and 10 drug violations reported on campus in 2017 even with police presence.

Crime at UMBC has not necessarily disappeared with police presence either. In 2016, three rapes and 194 on-campus liquor law referrals were reported. Would the numbers have been higher if there had not been a police force patrolling the campus?  “I think [the UMBC police] is way better than a lot of schools, but without them, I think crime would be about the same,” says Ian Kibria, a freshman political science major.

When comparing the crime logs of UMBC and Coppin State to Johns Hopkins’, the offenses and rates of crime are pretty much the same throughout the years. So does Johns Hopkins really need a police force if the crime statistics are the same as universities who do have on-campus police? However, having this bill passed and establishing a Johns Hopkins police force would be a step in the right direction to establishing a sense of security that these Baltimore-residing students are expecting and paying for.

How effective the force will be in eliminating crimes on-campus remains unclear and can only be determined by the university itself. But, even with these sentiments, there are still many fingers crossed that Johns Hopkins University will join the ranks of higher education institutions with on-campus police forces.