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Students work with NDSP on campus

Jenn Metz | Friday, November 30, 2007

Notre Dame students have been helping out the police for about three decades in different ways – including writing parking tickets and escorting other students to and from campus locations, said Phil Johnson, the director of Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP).

NDSP employs “40 or so” students, Johnson said. These students work in a variety of areas, including administration, parking enforcement, lost and found and assisting dispatchers. Most student workers, Johnson said, are in SafeWalk, a group that students can call to walk them home at night.

“Student responsibilities have changed somewhat through the years,” Johnson said. “For example, in the late 1970s, student employees worked in ‘parking lot patrol’ and monitored the student parking lots late at night and in the early morning hours. And for a number of years, law students worked part- time at the Main Gate when it was located between the Morris Inn and Alumni Hall.”

Now, student ticket-writers help out officers during what Maj. Jeff Korros called “busy times.”

Korros, who is in charge of traffic and parking, started working with NDSP 15 years ago.

Student ticket-writers help relieve the officers of ticket writing so “they can do other things,” Korros said.

“They add eyes and ears that have seen things going on, like car break-ins,” he said of the student workers.

Students typically work Monday through Friday at what Korros called “peak times” – between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. They are employed during the school year and do not work on football game days, Korros said.

Student ticket writers are offered NDSP-issued jackets, but most don’t wear them, Korros said.

Tickets are written with a hand-held writer that resembles a personal digital assistant , Korros said. When issuing a citation, Ticket writers enter the car’s permit number and year – or license plate number and state – and a description of the vehicle, and the most current information available comes up, he said. Tickets are electronic printouts from the writer.

Students usually patrol “larger lots,” Korros said, like student lots C1, D2, D6 and D2, and also the parking lots by the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Mendoza College of Business and the Bookstore.

They “don’t go on central campus because they are too busy on the outlying lots,” Korros said.

Student ticket writers are authorized to distribute tickets for “all kinds of violations,” but traditionally the tickets are for parking violations, like parking in an illegal spot, blocking a dumpster or parking in a handicap spot without a permit.

Between 13,000 and 15,000 tickets are given out each year, Korros said. However, he said, “a good percentage of those are to one-time visitors – one-third [of the total] at the least.” Many fines for first-time offenses are waived.

NDSP does not break down the numbers of tickets given out by student employees, as their tickets are just added to part of a total figure.

Students also participate in SafeWalk, a free and confidential NDSP service where a SafeWalk employee will meet and walk with a male or female student to or from any point on campus. According to the NDSP Web site, SafeWalkers carry photograph identification cards and are in radio contact with the Security/Police Communication Center.

An NDSP student employee initiated the service roughly 20 years ago, Korros said.

He said some student employees go on future law enforcement or security careers.

“Some of our student personnel went on to be in the United States Secret Service, one is the head of security at the University of Portland, some are in the F.B.I.,” Korros said.

And some even become University officials on campus involved in a form of enforcement. Associate Vice President of Residence Life Bill Kirk used to be a student worker, Korros said.

Sophomore Molly Conway is in her second year working for NDSP. However, instead of applying for employment, she got her job through family connections.

Head of major event security and student employment Cappy Gagnon

was a classmate of her uncle. He contacted Conway, and she began last year working nine hours a week as a student dispatcher.

“I didn’t know what to expect at first,” Conway said. “People are really down on NDSP.”

Conway said a head dispatcher is on duty 24/7. As a student dispatcher, she receives calls to the 631-5555 number during her shift and answers “some of the more simple questions, like directions or a SafeWalk request.”

Emergency 911 calls and those of a more confidential nature are directed to the head dispatcher, she said.

“I felt that I didn’t do very well [as a dispatcher],” Conway said. “I was a freshman. … You need an extensive knowledge of campus.”

This year, she works in lost and found, distributes payroll and helps in parking services for four hours a week.

While she was in dispatch, Conway worked directly with police officers.

“I would have to contact them, tell them places where kids need help, or if special needs kids needed rides, or if they needed to write a report,” she said. “They seem intimidating on the quad but they are all so nice.”

Even though NDSP officers have “a bad rap” among students, Conway said, “they are out there to help.”

“Their first concern is safety,” she said. “… They are looking out for Notre Dame students.