The Catholic University of America

Campus Safety

Safety First, Safety Always - 2007 Archives


5-22-07 Fire Department Declares Buildings Safe to Re-Enter Following Gas Leak

Several buildings on the Catholic University campus were evacuated this morning after a construction crew hit a high pressure gas line in front of Marist Hall at 8:30 a.m.

The line was repaired by Washington Gas employees by 10 a.m., when members of the D.C. Fire Department Hazardous Materials team tested the affected area and declared it safe to re-enter.

Staff from the CUA Office of Environmental Health and Safety will be retesting the affected buildings — Marist, Nugent and O’Boyle halls as well as the Curley Court trailers and the Life Cycle Institute — throughout the day to confirm the Haz Mat team’s assessment.


4-25-07 Safety Roundtable Brownbag Lunch Meeting on Friday, April 27

The Division of Student Life invites CUA students, faculty and staff to attend a safety roundtable meeting on Friday, April 27, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, Great Room A. This meeting is intended to reinforce important campus safety procedures. Additional meetings of this nature will be held in August and September 2007.


4-19-07 CUA Officials Discuss Emergency Preparedness Enhancements

Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., Catholic University’s president, convened a summit of 19 university officials Thursday, April 19, 2007, to review campus emergency procedures in the wake of the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University this week and to consider what more the university can do to enhance preparations for emergencies.

During the 90-minute meeting, senior staff from divisions across campus discussed CUA’s response to the events at Virginia Tech, the existing CUA emergency plan, current plans to enhance it and the implementation of additional means of alerting the campus community in the event of a crisis.

In addition to a review of the process of responding to an emergency, the meeting focused on communication tool enhancement and on education and preparation of the campus community to deal with emergency situations.

In the course of the meeting Father O’Connell authorized university officials to pursue the addition of two new emergency notification tools, i.e., the use of instant text messaging and sirens to immediately alert students, staff, faculty and others to imminent danger. Those tools would be used in conjunction with existing methods of conveying urgent communications to the campus community, which include mass campus e-mails; news updates at and the campus “Safety First” page; person-to-person communications by building “watch captains,” and mass messages conveyed through the campus voicemail system.

Even before the Virginia Tech shootings, CUA’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) had been negotiating a contract to upgrade the emergency phone kiosks on campus; the upgrade will also include emergency sirens.

DPS also has recently added four new vehicles to its fleet that are equipped with powerful public address systems capable of delivering emergency messages throughout campus via mobile loudspeakers. As was pointed out at the meeting, this could be a particularly important communication tool in the event of a power outage.

Earlier in the week, top leaders of CUA’s Department of Public Safety met with representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth District (which encompasses the university’s campus) to review existing emergency protocols, particularly those guiding communications and coordinated response in times of crisis. Fifth District officers reviewed CUA’s emergency response plan and found it to be so thorough that they promised to incorporate it into their own emergency planning. Discussions are underway between DPS and MPD to allow CUA officers to tap directly into the MPD radio system to report emergencies on campus.

Father O’Connell announced that he will be sending out a letter to the campus community summarizing what steps are being taken to enhance CUA emergency response and crisis communications. In addition, one or more campus-wide meetings will be held as soon as possible to educate students, staff and faculty about key safety procedures on campus. There was also discussion of holding a university-wide emergency drill in the future.

Participants at today’s meeting agreed that CUA’s emergency response plan, formulated after 9-11 and modeled after the approach taken by District and federal agencies, remains sound. Father O’Connell and others stressed that the effectiveness of emergency response at CUA will depend in large part on cooperation by students, faculty and staff in providing accurate contact information (e.g., land-line and cell phones), familiarizing themselves with emergency procedures and paying close attention to university communications in whatever format they are delivered to the campus community.


4-17-07 Emergency Preparedness Update

In light of the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University yesterday, Catholic University officials have been conducting an internal review of those elements of the CUA Emergency Response Plan for which they are responsible. A comprehensive university plan was created in the aftermath of 9-11 and is periodically reviewed and updated. Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., Catholic University president, will be convening a summit of top university officials on Thursday, April 19, to consider if the university can do anything more to enhance preparations for emergencies. In addition, top leaders of CUA’s Department of Public Safety are meeting today with representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth District (which encompasses the university’s campus) to review existing protocols in the event of an emergency. According to Director of Public Safety Thomasine Johnson, “our first responders are meeting with MPD’s first responders to ensure that our communications channels are completely in sync and that the processes involving both sides are seamless and interoperable.” Johnson added that last year approximately 20 CUA public safety department managers and staff completed weeklong incident command training funded by the Department of Homeland Security and tailored to campus public safety officials who may face emergency scenarios like the one at Virginia Tech.


4-17-07 Crime Alert: Attempted Robbery at Brookland/CUA Metro Stairs

On Monday, April 16, 2007, approximately 3:15 p.m., a suspect approached a CUA student on the Brookland/CUA Metro stairs and attempted to take her book bag. The suspect fled the area. DPS officers were notified immediately and pursued the suspect. The Metro Transit Police responded and searched the area.

Suspect 1: Black Male, juvenile, thin build, black hair (bush style), wearing a black coat and blue jeans.

Safety Precautions:

Stay alert at all times. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
Don’t wear headsets. If you wear them you won’t hear an approaching person or car.
Listen to your surroundings.
Notify the campus police of any suspicious persons or activity.
Know the location of the emergency telephones.
Use the shuttle bus and escort services.

4-16-07 Safety Update in Wake of Virginia Tech Tragedy

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of Washington, D.C., has asked all Washington universities and colleges to be on a state of “heightened alert” because of the shootings that occurred earlier today on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Although there is no threat indicated or implied to metropolitan D.C. institutions, the measure is one of prudence and caution. Public Safety officials at The Catholic University of America have been in direct contact with MPD throughout the day. MPD has specialized response units that can be mobilized quickly to provide assistance to academic institutions in the region. It is important for everyone to remain both calm and vigilant in the face of this tragedy. Campus officials have been in contact with faculty, staff and students. Prayer services, counseling and other services will continue to be offered to the CUA community.

3-30-07 Message from the Department of Public Safety

Over the past two weeks, there has been an increase in vehicle-related incidents. Earlier this week, three vehicles were broken into on Harewood Road and one in the DuFour Center parking lot. All of these incidents occurred on the same day and within the same time span. The week before, three vehicle-related incidents occurred on Marist Road during the same time period.

DPS has taken aggressive, pro-active measures to deter future incidents. DPS vehicles, patrol officers on foot and bicycle, and contracted security are monitoring and patrolling the areas.

Safety Precautions: THEFTS FROM AUTOS

One of the most common types of theft is theft of valuables from your automobile. Theft from auto is strictly a crime of opportunity that can be prevented if you take away the opportunity. Thieves generally won’t waste their time breaking into autos that don’t have valuables in plain sight.

The best way to prevent theft from your auto is to always keep valuables out of sight. Never leave cell phones, briefcases, suitcases or electronic devices (walkmans, palm pilots, laptop computers, etc.) in your car in plain view. Take these items with you, or secure them—all the time, every time.

If your car has a trunk, use it. Put valuables in there or in a locked glove compartment. Hiding items under seats is better than leaving them in plain view, but securing them inside the glove compartment or trunk is a far better deterrent.

During the holiday season especially, or any time you’re shopping, place packages in the trunk, not on the passenger seats or floors.

If you can unfasten your sound system and take it with you, or lock it in your trunk, do so. And don’t forget to do the same with your CDs and tapes.

Also, keep your car doors and windows locked—all the time.


3-13-07 MPD Investigating Human Remains Found on CUA Property

The Metropolitan Police Department is conducting an investigation of what appear to be human remains found at approximately 11 a.m., Tuesday, March 13, 2007, in a wooded area located on the northeast perimeter of CUA’s campus.

While the cause and time of death are currently under investigation by medical examiners, MPD detectives believe the remains have been in the area for six months to a year.

CUA administrators discount the possibility that the remains may belong to a member of the campus community — no missing persons have been reported on campus within the last year, confirmed Thomasine Johnson, director of Public Safety.

“This is a police matter and to the extent determined by them to be appropriate, Catholic University will cooperate fully in the investigation,” said Victor Nakas, university spokesman. “We will leave all further announcements to the Metropolitan Police Department.”

The skeletal remains were found under a tree in a densely forested area, out of sight of a street near the intersection of Hawaii Ave. N.E. and 2nd Street N.E. The area is at the far northern edge of campus. Police began looking for evidence in the area after a 911 caller reported a partially decomposed skull had been found and left in a nearby shopping center trash bin.

All of the discovered remains have been transported to the Office of the D.C. Medical Examiner for further examination.

For updated information about the ongoing investigation, visit the MPD Web site at: and click on the “newsroom” link.


2-19-07 Message From DPS Director

Dear members of The Catholic University of America community:

I am writing to thank the campus community for their help and support with keeping the campus safe and to provide you with an update on the safety and security initiatives.

Last year in a published open message on the Safety First Web site I asked the campus community to help Public Safety. Among the things you were asked to do were:

-- Please be vigilant and aware of your surroundings on and off campus. Use “high traffic” routes. Avoid short cuts through isolated areas.

-- Help us help you by contacting us at x5111 if you see suspicious individuals or suspicious activities on campus.

We have not received a single report of a robbery or stolen auto on campus during this academic year. I believe this is the result of both increased police visibility and community support. Public Safety officers, supported by contract security posts, have maintained a highly visible presence on campus.

We started the school year with fixed posts at the Metrorail station and in front of Conaty Hall and with roving patrols in McMahon parking lot and the mall area. Recently, we added roving patrols on the north and the south ends of campus, to include Harewood Road and the Metro access road (John McCormack Rd.).

On two occasions in November individuals came on campus and attempted to steal things. In both situations the individuals were apprehended and placed under arrest because members of the campus community were quick to detect suspicious behavior and contact Public Safety.

Please continue your efforts. We will continue to direct our efforts toward maintaining a safe and secure campus.

11-08-06 Campus Security [Implementation] Update

Dear CUA Community Members,

A campus security implementation group was established in fall 2006 and has been responsible for coordinating the implementation of additional security measures and developing an integrated security plan of action to support campus growth. The team reports to me and has been working to provide an overlapping system of security installations and practices as a top institutional priority. Recommendations from the Bratton Group Report of August 2006, feedback generated from the Security Task Force and campus community focus groups convened last spring are guiding the work of the group, which is comprised of directors from the Department of Public Safety; Center for Planning, Information and Technology; Business Services; and Facilities Management and Maintenance. Periodic updates to the campus community are planned.

I am highlighting the progress to date using our working goals:

GOAL: To improve perimeter control of vehicular traffic and to channel pedestrian access


- Increased uniformed patrol presence at main campus entrances during peak activity periods

- Revised campus gate closures during late evening/early morning hours and holidays

- Entrance control gates to restrict campus access along the Harewood Road corridor at Ward Hall, Monday thru Saturday


- Survey of all campus entrances to determine the appropriate application of access control gates, manned booths and closed circuit television cameras

- Assessment and design of permanent installations involving a mix of perimeter entrance and fencing treatments, gates, access control, lighting and cameras

- Arrangements for the posting of new restricted traffic signage at the north end of John McCormack Road as a first step towards reducing commercial traffic along the eastern corridor of campus

GOAL: To establish a more visible uniformed police patrol presence on campus


- Use of contract security services for regular manned, fixed-post assignments

- Release of non-police duties from CUA commissioned public safety officers including:

- An enhanced Public Safety Assistant program to supplement building access control systems for monitoring residence hall entrances, the Kane Student Fitness Center and the DuFour Center during the evening hours

- Operational measures to significantly reduce requests for opening buildings and offices, address after-hour maintenance requests in cooperation with building administrators and department managers

- Reassignment of special and athletic event coverage to sponsoring organizations

GOAL: To support a directed patrol strategy and enhance investigative capabilities


- Adjustments in patrol assignments and coverage areas

- Additional training for new and seasoned CUA Public Safety officers focused on crime prevention and effective community-oriented police patrol tactics

- Additional lighting installations

- Targeted landscape maintenance to reduce potential security obstructions and support surveillance measures


- Assessment and design of a higher quality closed circuit television camera system with an emphasis on the campus perimeter, residence halls and vehicular and pedestrian access

GOAL: To expand the electronic access control system in administrative and academic buildings


- The residence halls and a group of academic/administrative buildings already have fully functional building monitoring and access control systems


- An updated survey of building entrance doors and locking systems with hardware replacements and installation upgrades completed as needed in preparation for a control system expansion

- A determination of the options for expanding the current control system to accommodate additional campus buildings

GOAL: To improve safety measures in and near the Brookland/CUA Metrorail Station


- Establishment of a new fixed post by CUA at the station from 4 pm until closing

+ Position on station property provides visibility of the escalator and foot paths to and from the platform area

+ The top concern of the law school community and a major concern of student focus groups

GOAL: To enhance South Campus area security


- Assignment of a dedicated foot and bicycle patrol detail in addition to the 24-hour access control system and evening public safety assistant coverage

- Placement of a regular, manned fixed post at the north side of Conaty Hall operating daily from 4 p.m. until 8 a.m.

GOAL: To enhance security along Harewood Road


- Assignment of uniformed foot and bicycle patrol officers to the corridor as a dedicated perimeter beat

- Installation of access gates at the Ward Hall entrance

GOAL: To sustain student usage of a campus shuttle transportation system


- Identification and assessment of viable options for equipment, staffing and services to consider alternative campus routes

On behalf of the campus security implementation team, I want to assure you of our continued commitment to provide a safe learning, living and working environment for the CUA community and campus guests.

Sincerely yours,

Susan D. Pervi
Vice President for Student Life

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10-26-06 Washington Post Reports on New D.C. Crime Tracking Web site

The Washington Post today printed a story about a new District of Columbia police Web site that offers detailed views of criminal activity by neighborhood. To read the story or search for crimes on the D.C. police Web site, visit the following links:


Search for Crimes:

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10-13-06 Washington Post Reports on D.C. Locations with High Robbery Rates

On Oct. 13, 2006, The Washington Post ran a front page story about areas of the District of Columbia that have the highest concentration of robberies in the city. According to the article, several of the neighborhoods hold the distinction of also being among the most "vibrant" in the city, with new housing, nightclubs, shops and employment. To read the full story or see a large PDF map of areas where robberies have taken place, visit the following links:



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10-11-06 Law School Dean Dismisses Reported Assault as "False"

Late today, the dean of the Columbus School of Law issued a letter informing the law school community that a purported assault said to have occurred the previous day in the garage underneath the school was a fabrication. The text of Dean Veryl Miles’ letter follows.

Dear CUA Law Community,

Yesterday evening, a letter was received by the law school telling us about an alleged assault of a female law student on Tuesday afternoon in the underground garage of the law school building. Please be advised that the university’s Office of Public Safety has investigated this report and has determined that it is false.

However, it is still important for all of us to exercise caution in our daily activities, especially during evening hours. You should know that the parking garage is monitored by video cameras and foot patrols.

Our law school and this university consider the security of our students seriously. Do not hesitate to report any suspicious activity immediately to campus police and/or D.C. Metropolitan police. If you have any concerns regarding safety issues, please share them with the campus Office of Public Safety at ext. 5111.


Dean Veryl Miles

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8-24-06 Statement by the Presidential Task Force on University Safety and Security

In April 2006 Catholic University engaged the services of the Bratton Group, LLC, a security consulting firm based in New York City, to conduct an assessment of the university’s security situation and to make expert recommendations. During the spring and summer the Bratton Group conducted focus group meetings with students, faculty and staff, and met with university officials who are in charge of security and facilities, as well as with representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department and Metrorail police. On Aug. 10, 2006, the Bratton Group submitted its security plan and recommendations to Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, university president, and W. Michael Hendricks, vice president for enrollment management and chair of the Presidential Task Force on University Safety and Security. An executive summary of the security plan is provided below.

Mr. Hendricks convened a meeting of the task force on Aug. 21 to begin discussions of the report. A second meeting of the task force is scheduled for early September. The task force will make recommendations concerning the report to Father O’Connell who, with input from the President’s Council, will prioritize action items and set a timetable for their funding and implementation.

The university began implementing specific initiatives this summer based on preliminary recommendations from the Bratton Group. The Department of Public Safety has increased the security presence on campus by hiring contract police who are being posted 16 hours a day in three areas of campus (including South Campus and the Metro station). In addition, full-time public safety officers have been redeployed to better cover the campus during evening and late-night hours utilizing both foot and bicycle patrols.

To improve control of entrance to and egress from campus, the road that runs from Harewood Road along the southern border of Ward Hall will be closed to vehicular traffic. On Aug. 1, 2006, the Department of Public Safety began to provide daily in-service training to its officers that focuses on three elements: crime prevention, community-oriented policing and problem-solving policing.

Since April 2006, the Office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations has invested in security initiatives that include enhanced lighting (e.g. the law school, Flather Hall and Cardinal walk to Michigan Ave.), landscape improvements and better building entryways (e.g. McCort-Ward and Hartke). Many of the landscape improvements have involved removal of large hedges and their replacement with smaller ones to improve visibility and eliminate potential hiding places.

The leaders of the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Facilities Maintenance and Operations have been exploring ways to shift certain non-police related functions currently performed by the Department of Public Safety to the staff of the facilities office in order to enable officers to devote more time to active patrol of campus.

Members of the university community are encouraged to read the executive summary of the Bratton Group report that follows.

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8-10-06 Executive Summary Submitted by Bratton Group, LLC

The Catholic University of America engaged the Bratton Group, LLC, of New York City to evaluate security on its campus. The Bratton Group concluded that although the campus suffered a spate of robberies in early 2006 and crime on campus is currently a central concern of students, faculty and staff, the CUA campus has been and remains a substantially safe environment. Much of the increase in robberies in early 2006 was caused by a pattern involving one or two groups of suspects operating from vehicles, some of whom may have been apprehended. In the wake of these arrests the pattern has abated.

Nevertheless, the Bratton Group recommends that CUA move swiftly on a number of fronts to tighten security on the campus as whole, to reduce significantly the opportunities for robbery and theft, and to thereby significantly reduce the incidence of these crimes. Fortunately, the campus is well configured to control both auto and pedestrian access. The main campus is not crossed by a single city street, a huge security advantage for an urban institution. The goal should be to establish a system of overlapping security measures, beginning with controls at the campus perimeter, but also including enhanced public safety patrol, electronic building access controls, closed-circuit television and other measures in specific areas of the campus. These overlapping and mutually reinforcing systems will make the university a much less appealing target for robbers and thieves, who will find it more difficult to make their way onto campus, more difficult to escape, and harder to evade detection when committing their crimes.

The Bratton Group believes that the university should address the following primary areas:

• Control auto access

• Control and channel pedestrian access

• Enhance police patrol presence by relieving officers of non-police duties

• Enhance police investigations through added staffing and greater coordination

• Increase investigative capabilities with more and better closed circuit cameras

• Establish electronic access systems for all administrative and academic buildings

• Improve safety measures in and near the Metro station

• Enhance South Campus security

• Seek authority to restrict vehicular access to McCormack Road

• Enhance security along Harewood Road

• Reconfigure the shuttle bus system to increase ridership.


None of the measures described above, by themselves, will achieve a secure campus, but taken together, they constitute a web of safety that will keep criminals off the campus, identify them when they do penetrate the perimeter, secure buildings more efficiently and effectively and generally insulate the university from crime without isolating it from the surrounding community. On the security front, the university should be claiming its turf, and demonstrating to criminals, current and future, that CUA is not a place where they can operate profitably.

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4-20-06 Safety Task Force Finalized, Consultant to Begin Safety Audit

Today Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., CUA president, made public the composition of the new Presidential Task Force on University Safety and Security and revealed that a safety consulting firm would begin a comprehensive audit on campus in less than two weeks.

Father O’Connell earlier announced that he had tapped W. Michael Hendricks, vice president for enrollment management, to chair the presidential task force. Other members of the task force are:

* Michael Green, Director of Planned Giving

* Barbara Howard, Associate Professor, Biology

* Veryl V. Miles, Dean, Columbus School of Law

* Victor Nakas, Executive Director of Public Affairs

* Susan Pervi, Vice President for Student Life

* Kevin Petersen, Director of Facilities

* Ralph Scherini, Associate Vice President for Business Services

* Susan Weir, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Finance & Administration

Father O’Connell said, “the members of the presidential task force represent a good cross section of our CUA faculty, administrators and staff. I’m grateful to them for agreeing to serve and I’m confident they will be ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

The president has charged Susan Pervi with appointing a student task force on the same issue to work directly with her and her staff in the Division of Student Life. She, in turn, will represent the students’ concerns to the presidential task force.

The president also announced that the university has engaged the services of the Bratton Group, a New York-based police management and security consulting firm. The Bratton Group has served clients throughout the United States and abroad, and has conducted security studies at various universities, including Brown, the University of Houston and City University of New York.

He said the Bratton Group team will arrive on campus during the week of May 1 to begin its comprehensive security audit.

“We have all been greatly concerned by the recent armed robberies on or near campus,” said Father O’Connell. “Thankfully there have been no serious injuries. But I am absolutely committed to doing everything in my power to provide the very best public safety and security I can to everyone at CUA and, above all, to our students. It’s not a problem we can solve overnight, but it is a problem we must solve.”

Michael Hendricks has scheduled the first meeting of the newly constituted task force during the week of April 24 to prepare for the arrival of the Bratton team. Members of the task force will assist the Bratton Group as it conducts its safety review of the university.

(For updated information on campus safety and security issues, visit


Thomasine Johnson
Director of Public Safety
The Catholic University of America