Increasing GWPD presence on campus would hurt GW’s relationship with the community

As an urban and open campus, GW has thousands of people pass through campus and buildings on a daily basis. Having a campus that is integrated with the city can mean GW is more susceptible to crime than other universities in more rural areas. Last month students received two GW Alerts detailing crimes on campus, leading some to call for increased policing on campus, especially in academic buildings.

In a column published last week, a fellow opinions writer argued that a policy of “hot-spot policing” would be effective in decreasing campus crime because it would focus extra resources on certain high-crime areas. She asserts that if the University focused more on security on certain high-crime areas and in all academic buildings, the overall crime rate on campus would decline.

But the policy of “hot-spotting” in and around campus would be problematic because it would intensify the disruptive force that GW’s presence already imposes on the Foggy Bottom and greater D.C. area. “Hot-spot policing” is indeed effective in reducing crime in a given area and it has been shown that more police do, in fact, decrease crime. But adopting this policing method should not become GW’s strategy as it would decrease GW Police Department’s legitimacy and respect.

The desire for a higher police presence is understandable. Parents, students and staff all want the campus to be as safe as possible. However, our campus is already remarkably safe. D.C. Metropolitan Police data shows that GW’s campus have had 18 crimes this year, essentially unchanged from the previous month.

Adding extra, unneeded officers and security guards would intensify GW’s community interference when its presence in Foggy Bottom is already a major gentrifying force in the area. GW is a large employer, one of the largest in D.C. and employees flock to areas close to their place of work for housing, which raises prices and pushes out lower-income individuals. The modern buildings that surround GW’s campus have also increased housing costs in the area by 22 percent in the past five years.

If we chose to enforce the policy of “hot-spot policing,” we would also be choosing to saddle the community costs that come with such a policy. Intensified police would further disrupt the community GW exists within. Studies show that over-policing can increase fear of police and sour attitudes toward police as a whole, which can lead to people being less likely to report crime. If certain areas in and around campus experience sudden spikes in police presence and crackdowns, residents in these communities will become fearful of police.

“Hot-spot policing” can make residents feel like enemies of the police rather than partners in prevention. Therefore, the police actions would be viewed as unjust and unfair, consequently reflecting negatively on GW as a whole. These effects would not just apply to GW students, they would impact the larger Foggy Bottom community.

It is clear that the costs of expanding GWPD would outweigh the benefits. The heightened fear of police, coupled with the decline in police legitimacy would increase the gap between the school and the community in Foggy Bottom. If GWPD becomes a feared force in the Foggy Bottom area, the University would feel the effects of a hostile community attitude toward the school as a whole.

Many students choose GW for its urban location and integration with the D.C area. Our proximity to the city should be our crown jewel and something that the school should seek to foster and grow. So implementing “hot-spot policing,” as one writer suggested, would run counter to GW’s mission of drawing upon the D.C. community to further our commitment to education.

Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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