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GPSC, Birkhead talk about safety

During a question and answer session Tuesday night, members of the Graduate and Professional Student Council met with Duke University Police Department Chief Clarence Birkhead and Assistant Chief Leila Humphries to clear up confusion surrounding safety changes, including lighting, bike paths and patrol units.

"If you look around, we are in a total state of flux," Birkhead said, regarding the current changes in light of safety walks and lighting tours. "We do this twice a year-in the spring and summer."

The most recent lighting tour, Birkhead said, helped officials determine where they would need to install more blue lights and other luminary fixtures. It also pinpointed areas in need of environmental changes, such as cutting down trees and trimming shrubbery.

Birkhead said that although the lots on Duke University Road were patrolled from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., the lots are leased by the University and therefore significant lighting changes cannot be made. Thus, officials were concentrating on easing fears throughout the rest of campus.

"My prediction is that, within the next five years, this will be a pedestrian campus... which is not a bad thing," Birkhead added.

However, with this statement came some concern about the current state of walkways and bike paths. Several members of the General Assembly, including Ben Cooke, GPSC's co-social chair and a graduate student in mathematics, asked questions regarding the number of patrol units around campus.

Birkhead assured them that there were 18 to 24 police and security officials on duty at any one time. These patrols were in addition to foot patrols and 12 bike patrol officers--specially trained to use police mountain bicycles around campus.

He added that part of the construction process was adding speed "humps" instead of speed bumps and more strictly enforcing the speed limit with radar in order to protect the increased number of bikers in the coming years.

Another issue raised was that of communication during the past two ice storms.

GPSC Vice President Audrey Beck worried about paths not being cleared during winter storms, a problem Birkhead said the police department also experienced during those times. Unfortunately, he added, there is no specific way to prepare for snow and ice.

Jandy Hanna, GPSC secretary and a graduate student in biological anthropology and anatomy, shared Beck's concerns, suggesting more announcements over radio in the event of another storm, since many students were without power and thus unable to check their e-mail to find out about on-campus shelters.

IN OTHER BUSINESS: The assembly discussed the approximate 20 percent increase in individual and family insurance plans that will occur annually over the next 5 years.

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