Temple's new VP of Public Safety confident in maintaining safe North Philadelphia campus

Roughly one month into the fall semester at Temple University, students have already received alerts about safety issues near campus.

On Tuesday night, the university says there was a knife-point robbery at 17th and Diamond streets that did not involve a student. There was also a home invasion off-campus on Sydenham Street, that did involve a student held at gunpoint.

"It’s North Philly, you kind of expect it, you just gotta’ be safe," says Saidyah Perez, a transfer student.

FOX 29 scheduled an interview with Dr. Jennifer Griffin, the newly-appointed Vice President for Public Safety, prior to the two incidents on Tuesday night.

"We want it to be safe, we want them to have a great environment and great experience here, you also still have to be concerned that you are living in a major city in the United States that, like all cities, is dealing with crime and violence," she says.

Dr. Griffin comes from the University of Delaware, where she received her doctorate and worked as an adjunct professor. She also worked as a Delaware State Police trooper for 23 years.

"If you look at our crime stats, or our clear reports, or our daily log, we are still a safe campus," says Dr. Griffin. "The number one thing is trying to teach prevention strategy, have solid communication with the parents and students."


Officials: Temple student's home invaded as 2 armed robberies unfold near campus overnight

An armed robbery escalated into a home invasion for one Temple student, just minutes before another armed robbery near the Philadelphia campus late Tuesday night.

Dr. Griffin is doing a 90-day "listen and learn"—she wants to get out as much as she can within the community and within her own agency to find out where they are with communication, recruitment and retainment, and crime reduction strategies.

In her first town hall with students, she says she focused on the university’s walking escorts, safety apps, and a new Flight shuttle system. The university is also starting a landlord vetting process which will allow them to provide parents and students with a list of off-campus housing that have taken various safety measures.

She’s confident in Temple University Police Department’s partnership with Philadelphia Police.

"Our captain of criminal investigations unit speaks to them frequently, sometimes several times a day," she says. "All of the things that we can control about best practices for investigations and follow through, we’re doing. Is it still very scary for the students and the families, and the people that live in the area and are seeing the news? Of course it is, I acknowledge of that and I’m conscious of that every day when I come to work."

Staffing is also a challenge.

Dr. Griffin says they have security and an agreement with Allied Universal that helps free up officers, along with extra support from PPD on the weekends. She launched a monthly recruitment and retainment work group.

However, to ensure that all shifts are fully staffed, they sometimes have to hold people over from the earlier shift.

"It’s unfortunate because it can lead to fatigue and burnout is you have to hold people over from the earlier shift," she says.

The university is currently doing an audit of their 1,000 cameras on campus to ensure they are used in the best way possible. The audit into safety operations as a whole, led by former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, is on-going.

They are currently in focus groups with students and the community and will be back on campus in November.

"I would say I’m really excited about it, actually," says Dr. Griffin. "They are looking not just at crime stats or mental health calls for service, but they are looking at, what are things inside the organization that we can do better?"

Dr. Griffin says addressing another crisis—mental health—is just as crucial. Last year they had 170 calls for service, and this year so far, they had 133.

She plans to start a co-responder unit where master social work students will ride with officers and respond to these types of calls for extra support and real-life experience.

"We’re seeing larger numbers and the issues are not singular sometimes when we go into the community," she says.