The eyes of campus safety are watching. They see when there is a car accident on campus, a struggle between boyfriend and girlfriend or when someone is walking alone in the dark to their car across the parking lot.
It’s mid-afternoon and Shift Sergeant Maribel Aldaco is on mobile duty. She’s in one of several Motivated Security vehicles used to patrol RVCC parking lots. She reports the mileage and the gas level to headquarters then sets out to lots 1 and 2.
Occasionally while doing her rounds, Aldaco comes upon a couple arguing. She’ll drive over to them, scope out the situation and ask, “Is everything okay here?” She says she really needs to hear from the girl that everything is okay. If the girl is all red with tears streaming down her face and the boy says that everything is fine, Aldaco will not leave until she hears it from the girl.
“I have to feel that the girl is comfortable and feels safe enough for me to leave,” she says. “I usually circle around just to be sure.”
There are no problems of any type today and Aldaco reports that to headquarters. “Parking lots 1 and 2 are in order,” she calls in, before heading to the next lot.
Making her way into the parking lot she notices a girl standing beside her car trying to fix its rear view mirror. She suspects the damage was caused in a car accident and decides to check things out.
She pulls up alongside the student and asks if everything is okay. Then she gets out of the vehicle to inspect the damage and talk with the girl, student Ali Sands, and a boy standing beside another car, student Amitoz Anand.
Aldaco asks what happened and whether they have called the police.
Sands says she was driving along the line of cars when Anand backed out of a parking space without seeing Sands’ car or hearing her blow the horn. Sands says she tried to move out of his way as fast as she could but Anand backed into the side of her car.
The students say they don’t want to involve the police, that they would handle the matter on their own. But while they fill out forms, Aldaco reports the incident to headquarters in Somerset Hall. Security officers there call the Branchburg Township Police.
Aldaco waits for a policeman to come to the scene. After he takes control of the situation she returns to her rounds. Later, back at headquarters, she’ll type up a report describing the incident, the persons involved and the outcome.
At lot 5, many cars are parked near the entrance; one is parked in the far corner, apart from the others. Aldaco approaches the car very slowly, “So he knows I am around,” she says. But extra precaution isn’t necessary today and she reports back to headquarters, “Parking lot 5 is in order,” then heads to the faculty lot.
Continuing her rounds, Aldaco drives though campus looking for any suspicious behavior, cars parked illegally or smokers around the buildings.
Not every incident is one that calls for police involvement. One time, Aldaco came upon a car that had a door wide open. There was nobody around. After deciding nothing suspicious had occurred, she simply closed the door.
At headquarters, other security officers are keeping their eyes on monitors that display views of lots 4 and 5 from cameras mounted outside. In an event they see something suspicious they’ll dispatch Aldaco to the site by radio.
It would be ideal if the cameras recorded the incident, but head of security Reinhold Woykowski says the equipment is older and doesn’t reliably record what officers are able to see on the monitors. That may change in the near future.
“We are working on upgrading our camera system by replacing old ones and adding new additional ones,” Woykowski said. Meanwhile, the cameras can be moved manually to view the two back lots.
The security vehicles, the mobiles, as they are called, carry orange safety cones, bright vests for the officers to wear while directing traffic, incident forms and flashlights. They don’t carry first aid gear. If a security patrol comes upon someone who is injured a second vehicle is called in with equipment to aid the person.
Throughout the day, as many as eight to 10 security personnel with 2-way radios patrol the campus on foot. At the end of the day, when night classes let out, one security vehicle is stationed in lot 5 to provide protection for students walking back to their cars alone.
If a student or faculty member asks, security officers are available to escort the person through a lot to the parked car.
At around eleven, a security officer patrols campus to make sure all cars are out of the lots. They’ll call in the license plate numbers of cars still there at the end of the day. If a car isn’t moved after a day or so, campus security will notify Branchburg Township Police. Cars that are not registered with the campus could be towed.
The RVCC community then has its chance to sleep, something campus security does not do. They just move on to their night patrols and monitoring.
Security is on call 24-7, Aldaco says, always on duty, always watching.