By Matt Mizanin
While some students may be nervous about commuting to college in Camden, recent crime statistics on Rowan University’s Camden campus suggests that students have nothing to fear.
“Believe it or not, we don’t see crime on campus very often,” said Michael Funk, who has been the Chief of Security at Rowan University’s Camden campus for nearly nine years. “Criminal incidents are very, very rare and far between.”
The Camden campus consists of the Camden Academic Building and the Cooper Medical School. The academic building, located in the remodeled First Camden National Bank & Trust building, sits at the corner of Broadway and Cooper in the city’s University District. The medical school is three blocks away at Broadway and Mickle Boulevard The area is patrolled by Rowan Security, which consists of 25 officers that work in round-the-clock shifts.
Crime has rarely been an issue for Rowan Security. The last reported crime at the academic building was in 2015 for stalking, while the most recent incident at the medical school was a burglary of a motor vehicle in 2014. Last year, both buildings combined for one reported crime.
Compared to Rowan’s three other campuses, the Camden campus experienced the least amount of crime between 2013-15. According to the University’s annual Clery report, the Glassboro main campus saw the most crime with 1,881 offenses, the majority of which were drug or alcohol related. The Stratford School of Osteopathic Medicine had the second most with six offenses while the South Jersey Technology Park and Camden campus each had two.
One of the main reasons for the Camden campus’ low crime totals is its low student population. While the Glassboro campus has 4,483 residential students and thousands of daily commuters, Funk estimates that there are only 100-300 people in both campus buildings at a given time.
Although the student population is expected to expand after renovations to the academic building are completed, Camden’s student body is a fraction of the main campus. With less people on campus, there is less crime.
In addition, Camden Public Safety doesn’t have to deal with residential students. With no on-campus housing or apartments, security rarely deals with drug or alcohol related offenses that often occur on residential campuses.
“Unlike officers in Glassboro, we aren’t responding to calls or incidents in the dorms,” said Funk. “We don’t deal with the inherent problems that come with having residential students. That definitely makes our job a little easier.”
Funk’s number one priority is to ensure that students and faculty feel safe on campus. Campus Security, which is stationed in front of the building’s main entrance, strives to make themselves visible and available to the student body.
“I’ve never felt unsafe on campus,” said Tiffany Jenkins, a freshman health, exercise and science major. “It’s a very friendly campus. As soon as you walk in, you get greeted by security guards at the door and if you have any questions, they are always willing to help.”
Cold Weene Saintilnord, a freshman ESL student, also had positive things to say about her experience on campus.
“My first impressions were that the campus was very beautiful and everyone was so nice,” said Saintilnord. “I was a little nervous about my classes, but I never felt nervous about my safety.”
Funk noted that he has rarely received complaints or concerns from students or faculty. However, when security does receive concerns, they are often able to make simple accommodations.
Security escorts have been public safety’s most popular request. During the night, students often ask officers to walk them to their vehicles or the train station. The number of requests varies weekly, but Funk and his officers have never turned down a security escort and have been more than willing to help.
“It’s not unusual for us to receive an escort request at 3 a.m.,” said Funk. “All you have to do is ask. The officers are never going to say no. Some students may be nervous about walking to a vehicle, but it’s an easy accommodation that we can make.”
One of the benefits about Camden’s campus is its location. Rowan is located in the city’s university and business district along with Rutgers-Camden, Camden County College, City Hall, the Federal Courthouse and the LEAP Academy Charter School.
Funk described the area as having a “nine-to-five population.” Once businesses and schools let out, pedestrian traffic decreases significantly and the area surrounding campus begins to empty out.
“There’s been nights where I could literally shoot a cannon down Broadway and not hit anything at one in the morning,” said Funk.
“The immediate location around the campus is pretty safe. I rarely hear any reports from there, but if you go a little further into some of the residential areas, things will be a little rougher.”
One aspect that makes Camden so commuter friendly is the University’s shuttle system. Rowan’s Glassboro campus offers a free hourly shuttle that will transport commuters to-and-from the academic building. If requested, university officers are willing to wait with a student for the shuttle to arrive.
“I like to say that the officers here at the academic building and the medical school have a good report with the student body,” said Funk. “It’s very rare that we hear something negative and if we do, we’re always willing to listen and help.”