Among students, it is no mystery that GW blue lights around campus are often out of order. They report seeing many of University Police’s 20 emergency phone stations disconnected and unusable at various times.
On Monday, blue light phone number 14, located on G Street between 23rd and 24th streets, was covered with a plastic bag taped over the phone plate and a sign saying it is out of order.
A blue light on the closed side of the sidewalk on 21st Street next to the Marvin Center construction site is covered with masking tape and dirt, but did not beep as if it was offline Wednesday. The light is near Lafayette Hall.
On Saturday afternoon, the blue light system across from the Marvin Center on H Street sounded with an out-of-order signal. On Wednesday, the beeping had stopped and it was covered with clear masking tape.
UPD Director Dolores Stafford said she had no record of malfunctioning emergency phone across from the Marvin Center.
“I have no report of that, so I don’t know,” Stafford said Tuesday. “Maybe they were offline and came online on their own.”
She said rain often enters the blue light stand, making the phone inoperable. Many times the phones function again without repair.
UPD Assistant Director Anthony RoccoGrande said repairing blue lights is important for student safety. He said UPD checks them about once a week and turns in an emergency checklist, which lists those that need to be repaired.
“We try to get on them the very next day,” RoccoGrande said. “It’s important. If someone is in trouble and the phones are not working, it’s a liability. We try to get them fixed in a timely manner.”
Some students said UPD takes too long to repair the phones at the blue light stations.
“They’re always broken, especially the one by Subway,” junior Anthony Morris said, referring to the emergency phone by Mitchell Hall.
Others said malfunctioning blue lights have no effect on their feeling of safety on campus.
“I don’t think (the emergency phones) have any effect on my feelings of safety. I’ve walked by them on more than one time, and they’ve been beeping,” junior Stephanie St. Pierre said. “If there is an immediate danger I don’t think standing by that button would help you, unless you were by yourself and injured.”
“It’s kind of a concern because I’ve walked past them, and they’re out of service,” freshman Linda McGreevy said. “But I feel safe. I’ve never had to use them.”
RoccoGrande said when a person presses the button on the blue light station for assistance the call goes to a UPD dispatcher. The dispatcher is automatically sent the activated station’s location. The caller can tell the dispatcher the emergency or wait and tell the UPD officer who arrives at the station. UPD sends units to the Blue Light “within less than a minute,” RoccoGrande said.
University Police Department has had plans since the beginning of the school year to add Blue Lights between the edge of campus and the Hall on Virginia Avenue, and the edge of campus at Pennsylvania Avenue and The Aston, Stafford said.
UPD needs permission from D.C. because the streets are public property. No time frame for construction has been set because of the pending decision, Stafford said.
Even though the new blue lights are not up yet, RoccoGrande said UPD has “a close relationship with the Metro Police Department” to take care of student safety.
-Joe Pollack contributed to this report.