For many, Halloween means an evening spent traveling door-to-door collecting candy in the name of fun and celebration, but Portland State Vanguard spent this Oct. 31 traveling building-by-building with a different aim: navigating campus alongside two of PSU’s Campus Public Safety Officers on their Halloween shift.
Vanguard joined CPS Officers Matthew Masunari and James Dewey to experience this notorious party holiday from the officers’ perspectives.
“It’s going to be more parties, people wearing a lot of costumes, so one thing that we have to keep in mind is that there are going to be people wearing masks,” Masunari said. “That’s something that makes police officers feel a little more, not on edge, but vigilant.”
Officers were on the lookout for drug and alcohol use and mischief often associated with the holiday.
“There are also going to be some people who take advantage of the atmosphere of Halloween,” Masunari continued, “using masks and things like that to try and conceal their identities, on a night where it’s kind of normal to conceal identities.”
PSU campus safety security measures vary significantly from other universities due to its location in a downtown metropolis rather than a small college town.
“You’re going to have a lot of crime associated with urban centers, so a lot of property crimes, thefts—car thefts, bike thefts, property thefts—criminal mischief like breaking into cars, a lot of drug use—heroin, methamphetamines—you’ll see a lot more of that.”
The officers expected this year’s Halloween, which fell on a Tuesday, to be less rowdy than years before, in which Halloween landed on a weekend. Generally, the concerns are more prevalent over weekends.
This rang true over the course of the ride along itself, which remained relatively quiet throughout the night.
Spoopy University Pointe Party
The first significant stop was to a call about a trespasser in University Pointe. By the time we arrived, there were two people thought to be trespassing. One left after simply being asked by the officer, and the other disappeared before the officer could speak with them.
This stop is new to the officers this year. Until last summer, CPSO didn’t include University Pointe in its regular patrol rounds, because the student residence building—while built on university-owned land—is not technically PSU-owned. Texas-based company American Campus Communities owns and operates the building.
CPSO made the change to include UP in its jurisdiction to provide more efficient security for the building and its student residents. Without CPSO response, emergency calls and security concerns would go to the Portland Police Bureau, whose response could take up to 30 minutes to arrive on the scene. CPSO can be anywhere on campus within a matter of minutes.
While on patrol, the officers also responded to possible fights happening on and around campus. Beyond these instances, officers primarily spent the night patrolling in the police vehicle, hoping to stop crimes before they happened.
Campus police presence & perceptions of safety
In 2013, when PSU administration first began considerations to transition from its former campus security office model to its now deputized police force, safety concerns regarding PPB response time factored significantly into arguments supporting armed campus officers.
The officers said even the simple presence of the CPSO vehicle often deters students from crimes they would have otherwise committed.
Not all campus groups and individuals feel the presence of a deputized police force is safer or necessary on campus and express this by continuing to advocate against the presence of armed officers at PSU.
CPSO officers said they try to work directly with students and campus resource centers. “I like working with students, and it’s a great community to be working with,” an officer said. “The [Women’s Resource Center] and [Queer Resource Center] are our community partners and advocates for the students. What makes working here so great is having those community partners.”