Robbery forces UPD to hire night lot staff

Spinnaker

UNF contracted Giddens Security Corporation to patrol the parking lots in the evenings in response to a recent robbery on campus, UPD officials said.

Two female students were mugged in Lot 18 after a sporting event in October. They adhered to precautions UPD suggests – using the buddy system and taking the shuttle instead of walking late at night. But that didn’t stop two unidentified men from threatening them and forcefully stealing their purses, according to the police report.

The suspects fled and UPD has no immediate leads. They are described by UPD as two young black males in a silver Ford Taurus.

Plans for a security team were put together the next day, and it took one week to get the team in place.

UPD Chief Mark Foxworth said there have not been very many similar incidents like this on campus, but students are going in and out of the lots 24/7 and UPD wanted to hire additional safety patrols so it wouldn’t lose the manpower of its own officers. Though the efforts are taking place in the lots, this was not a parking initiative, said Vince Smyth, director of Auxiliary Services.

“Anytime there’s more eyes and ears, it’s helpful,” Foxworth said. “Now we have a set of them patrolling at all times.”

With the assistance of the President’s Office and funding by the administration finance office, the school was able to sign a contract with the corporation for an eight-week period that entails three of its officers guarding the lots from 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. seven days a week, a Giddens spokesman said.

This is a stop-gap measure until UPD develops a permanent plan to continue safety measures at this extent starting next semester, Foxworth said. It is currently working on proposals to ensure this.

It chose to employ Giddens because it was the best fit in serving its needs. It is also a local Jacksonville company with ties in the community and really wanted to help out, Foxworth said.

The contract, which holds until the end of this semester, cost a little more than $22,000 and was paid for by the administration from a discretionary fund, said Shari Shuman, vice president Administration and Finance.

“[UPD] is running the whole thing, but we by no means funded it,” UPD Lieutenant Bill Strudel said.

Since the security officers are in uniform, it should prevent people from doing anything and make the security endeavor effective, Foxworth said.

E-mail Sarah Gojekian at [email protected] 

James Cannon II contributed to this report.