After conducting a nationwide search for a new campus safety director, Trinity selected Francisco (Cisco) Ortiz in August 2012. Born and raised in New Haven, CT Ortiz obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees in law enforcement at the University of New Haven. He joined the New Haven Police Department in 1978 and was the Chief of Police from 2003 to 2008. In 2008, Ortiz ended his 30-year career with the NHPD and became the Director of Security Operations at Yale University in New Haven. With his extensive experience in public and private security and college security in an urban setting, Ortiz brings new ideas and a committed plan to improve Trinity’s Campus Safety Department. After spending 45 minutes with him, I can assure you that Ortiz is committed and devoted to keeping Trinity’s campus and students safety.
Upon arriving on campus in August, Ortiz hit the ground running. Ortiz’s vision for Trinity’s Campus Safety department is for it to be the “most respectful, thoughtful, and creative campus safety unit in the northeast.’ Many wonder though how Ortiz will do so. His first goal is to raise the bar and standards on officers by introducing training programs, certifications and higher rankings, like sergeant, within the Campus Safety force. Ortiz plans to evaluate officers on both their visibility and problem solving skills; he noted that officers will be given more responsibilities and duties, and some may be promoted by the first week of October. In raising the bar on the officers, Ortiz hopes that this will close the gap between students and officers. He says that security departments do their best work when there is “trust in the community, everyone (officers and students) are treated with respect and dignity, problems are prioritized, and the Campus-Safety Department makes an effort to reduce problems.” Going forward with a reformed Campus Safety department, Ortiz wants students to understand that officers matter and are essential to the department’s mission of keeping Trinity safe. Many officers have been at Trinity for 10, 20, and even 30 years. “It’s unusual in safety departments to see officers who have stayed with a school for so many years, and that says something about how much the officers like the students,” says Ortiz. Ortiz’s vision is that soon, students will be on a first name basis with officers and will understand them in an everyday context and low stress time, which will hopefully make high stress occasions, like interacting with intoxicated students, easier for both the officers and the students. Regarding officers carrying guns, Ortiz noted that there are many college and university campuses in America that do not have gun permits, and that the presence of guns does not necessarily lower crime rates.
In addition to on-campus safety, Ortiz notes that Trinity also has a strong off campus presence: roughly 200 students live off campus. He has already met with Hartford Chief of Police, James Rovella, multiple times and is increasingly building Trinity’s relationship with the HPD. Ortiz says that the key to protecting students living off campus is to understand the local crime and keep the two-block radius around Trinity safe, so those crimes can be prevented from happening on campus.
Ortiz says that “safety is everyone’s responsibility,” and that students also need to contribute to keeping themselves safe. While many students may think that Trinity is a hot spot for crime, the crime numbers are actually low, according to Ortiz. He claims that there is a perception of high crime at Trinity, while the reality shows low numbers. Ortiz also wants to inform students as to why incidents of crime occur on campus. He says that criminal activity happens in trends. For example, more car break-ins tend to happen around the end of October, which Ortiz relates to Halloween pranks. During the fall and daylight savings time, crime numbers and alcohol transports pick up as students head back to school, and empty college campuses from the summer are populated again. Ortiz says that crime is about “target and opportunity,” and a safe campus involves eliminating one of those two factors. Students can help play a role in preventing the “opportunity” aspect by not parking their cars in dark areas or empty lots, and to not leave money, GPS devices, or other items out in plain sight. “Unattended items tend to grow legs,” says Ortiz.
So students, I ask that you wipe away any former biases and judgments about Campus Safety and welcome Cisco Ortiz into the Trinity community!